Garrett & Co is celebrating a major coup, having poached Pinsent Curtis corporate head Sean Lippell, partner Andrew Gray and assistant Andrew Kay.
But Pinsents is insisting that high-flyer Lippell, one of the top seven corporate lawyers in the North-East, should take a year's gardening leave before joining Garretts as northern managing partner.
Lippell, 46, and the two other defectors, formed the core of Pinsent's renowned management buy-out unit.
Lippell was part of the negotiating team that led the Pinsent & Co/Simpson Curtis merger 18 months ago.
Lippell himself was unable to speak to The Lawyer because technically, he is still under contract to Pinsents, but his friend Nick Painter, who is Garretts' current northern managing partner, said Lippell had been unhappy that Pinsents had not developed a strong European network of associates to snap up cross-border buy-out work.
He said Garretts was attracting a lot of work through its international Arthur Andersen connection.
Garretts has been head-hunting fiercely recently. Only last week it announced the appointment of Baker & McKenzie financial markets partner Peter Richards-Carpenter.
Painter said firms were now resorting to “draconian measures” to stop partners leaving and several had changed their deeds of partnership to try to prevent partners quitting after approaches from Garretts.
Pinsents has brought its own high-flyer, Alan Greenough, from its Birmingham office to Leeds to replace Lippell as head of corporate.
One corporate partner from a rival Leeds firm said that Pinsents would be damaged more by the defection than Garretts would be helped.
He added that Lippell's contacts were mainly from accountancy firms, which he may lose once he joins Garretts – particularly if he is forbidden to work for a year.
Pinsents has a double reason to rue the rise of the accountancy-tied law firms.
It has just lost two buy-out partners from its London office to Arnheim & Co, the law firm tied to Price Waterhouse.
They are Patrick Martin and Leon Slavell, both of whom were formerly at Clifford Chance.
Arnheim also recruited corporate assistant Jennifer Harding from Herbert Smith last week.