Dibb Lupton Alsop has poached a leading insolvency partner from Herbert Smith.
Richard Obank's move to the Leeds office leaves the City firm with only one partner, Stephen Gale, in its insolvency group.
Herbert Smith is instructed by all of the big five accountants, but Obank says he will not take clients with him. However, he adds that Dibbs also has good relationships with the top tier.
The move is a particular coup for Dibbs which has been hit by a series of defections in its restructuring practice.
The last to go was top insolvency partner Jeremy Goldring, who joined Baker & McKenzie (The Lawyer, 9 August 1999).
But Dibbs' group head of business support and restructuring Peter Cranston says the department is now at full strength and there are no plans for a continued recruitment drive.
Obank says he joined Dibbs because he wanted to end his weekly commute from Leeds, where his wife and young family live.
He adds: “I understand the Leeds scene and socialise with the partners. I am completely comfortable going into that environment.”
But sources claim that Obank did not have a comfortable relationship with fellow Herbert Smith insolvency partner Gale.
Obank and Gale worked together in the mid-1990s at Hammond Suddards, when Obank was not a partner, before leaving for Herbert Smith in 1995. Gale followed shortly after.
Obank refuses to be drawn on the relationship other than to say: “Stephen and I go back a long way and I wish him well.”
Obank is still in discussions over his leaving date, but he is expected to join Dibbs' Leeds office by early summer.
Cranston says of the appointment: “It has been bubbling away for months and it was a chance remark about commuting that led to things becoming more official.”
A Herbert Smith spokeswoman says the firm has yet to decide who will replace Obank in its eight-strong insolvency practice.