US FIRM Coudert Brothers is planning a major international expansion of English lawyers which would see its London office grow from 28 lawyers to 100 within the next five years.

Administrative partner in London, Steven Beharrell, said the firm was developing the capital as its main European centre and would be recruiting reputable City lawyers.

The firm also plans to recruit heavily in New York, its largest office, and in Asia, increasing the proportion of English solicitors from 16 to 40 per cent.

“We would aim to get a 10 per cent per annum increase in the number of solicitors world-wide,” said Beharrell.

The heavy recruiting follows the departure of six from Couderts to join Morgan Lewis & Bockius earlier this year and three associates leaving Couderts' London office late last year.

“It's a fact of life that people come and people go in the profession now,” said Beharrell.

Managing partner of Clifford Chance's London office, Geoffrey Howe, said many law firms made bold projections about their growth rates.

“London is a very competitive market and it is not easy to grow rapidly.”

Beharrell said the firm's expansion stemmed from a growing international tendency to write in English law, particularly within Asia.

“Increasingly, English law is used for international financing and international arbitration, and there is a very strong English influence on the capital markets,” he said.

A partner in Baker & McKenzie's corporate department, Tim Gee, said Couderts' London office had struggled in recent years to make the transition from being a service office to a domestic business generating its own work.

He said it made sense for Couderts to increase its critical mass to generate domestic business. The firm would not have a problem recruiting top-quality English lawyers.

“There's certainly a ready market of people the American firms can pick up. But building the business is more than simply filling a building with a lot of lawyers,” he said.

Couderts has recruited a telecommunications team of three lawyers from US firm Reid & Priest. Tedson Meyers, Tara Giunta and Timothy Logue will work with Couderts' international telecommunications practice in Washington DC, headed by London partner Colin Long. Long said Meyers was one of the “doyens of telecommunications legal practice”.