Cameron McKenna has lost its head of tax to accountancy firm Deloitte & Touche – the second lawyer to quit the top-level post in less than a year.
Cameron McKenna is shrugging off the loss and has acted quickly to replace Stephen Charge with corporate tax high-flier Mark Nichols.
But the poaching of a top lawyer by an accountancy firm will set alarm bells ringing throughout the profession.
Charge joins Deloittes as a partner specialising in M&A. His arrival coincides with Deloitte's decision to make up four lawyers to partner level. They are Philip Ridgway, who was formerly at Allen & Overy; two former Norton Rose lawyers: Stephen Woodhouse and Bob Doye; and lastly Liz Burnie who was at Lovell White Durrant.
Charge has been head of tax at Cameron McKenna for less than a year, having taken over in June from Anthony Concanon who left to join US firm LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae in its London office.
Charge says that he is leaving to build up his practice as a tax adviser.
“The big five [accountancy firms] have a higher emphasis on international transactions than I believe it is possible to get with a national law firm,” says Charge, who, after qualifying as a barrister, spent five years as a chartered acc ountant with Arthur Andersen, before requalifying as a solicitor.
Those comments may be damning to Cameron McKenna, which only last month announced its European alliance CMS.
But says Charge: “There are no hard feelings on either side. Deloitte & Touche and Cameron McKenna have had links for years and are very close to each other.”
His new role he describes as being purely transactional and involves a lot of work on foreign tax regimes which he says was part of the attraction.
Cameron McKenna's senior partner Bill Shelford has confirmed that Mark Nichols, who was formally head of corporate tax, will take over Charge's position. A respected tax barrister described Nichols as a high-flier who is likely to become a big player in the future.
Shelford says: “I am very sad that he [Charge] has decided to leave us and go back to his roots. When he left however, he said that he remained extremely supportive of Camerons and our development plans and remains a great friend of the firm.”
However, he added that the firm was not looking for a new partner to come into the tax department immediately.