a year ago this week

Mills & Reeve poaches top partner for London launch

Mills & Reeve, East Anglia's biggest firm, lured Cameron McKenna insurance partner Geoff Barnett to open its London office. Barnett had previously spent 14 years as a partner at Cameron McKenna.

There are currently three partners based at the London office – insurance partners Barnett and Peter Driscoll as well as head of insurance Guy Hodgson.

The office concentrates mainly on insurance work, although a range of other partners, including the managing and senior partners, use the London office for property, health and corporate work.

This year has started well for Mills & Reeve, as it is believed to have secured a place on the revised NHS clinical negligence panel.

Ashursts in US merger talks

Ashurst Morris Crisp reached the advanced stages of merger negotiations with US firm Latham & Watkins in a bid to bridge the gap in its international expansion strategy.

Despite early optimism of the possibility of a marriage between the two firms, the merger was called off on 26 May. This was the second failure by Ashursts to pull off a high-profile merger. In March 1998, discussions with fellow City firm Clifford Chance were brought to a close without agreement.

Ashursts' US operation is currently limited to a small one-partner office in New York.

KLegal takes head of telecoms at Rakisons

KLegal, the law firm associated with top five accountant KPMG, poached Chris Hoyle, the head of telecoms at City firm Rakisons.

Hoyle was the third partner to join KLegal that year, after Simmons & Simmons public finance initiative partner Gareth Davies and Masons commerce and finance partner Arun Singh both joined the firm in January.

It was part of a huge expansion drive in the firm that saw it poach the managing partner of Coudert Brothers' London office Philip Burroughs in September, and competition partner Rob Murray, who left Bond Pearce to join as a director of Klegal's competition group in July.

KLegal also established a property group in May with the help of three new recruits, Bruce Dear and Stephan Sumpton from CMS Cameron McKenna and Baker & McKenzie respectively, and property lawyer Matthew Newing from Stephenson Harwood. All three joined the team as senior solicitors.

There are now 75 lawyers at KLegal, and it hopes to reach 100 by this summer.