Davies Wallis Foyster has hired former Addleshaw Booth & Co corporate finance partner Andrew Needham. Needham quit Addleshaws in 1998 to set up his own company DataGroup, but has now decided to return to private practice. Needham will be based in Davies Wallis Foyster’s Manchester office.

Berwin Leighton has won out against CMS Cameron McKenna and Eversheds for a lucrative government contract. The firm has been instructed by the Department of Social Development in Northern Ireland to advise on all property matters in the redevelopment of Belfast city centre. The win comes only weeks after the firm was appointed to advise on the redevelopment of Northampton town centre. Partners Tim Hellier and Candice Blackwood led the bid for the Belfast contract, which is expected to run until 2007.

Gomez-Acebo & Pombo, the Spanish law firm, is forming an association with Argentinian practice Beccar Varela. The cooperation agreement means the firm now has associations with firms in Portugal, Brazil and Argentina. Beccar Varela is one of the country’s oldest firms, specialising in corporate, banking and M&A. Clients include Diners Club Argentina, the Walt Disney Corporation, Toshiba and Citibank.

Ward Hadaway has hired Bob Edgar from Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council to coordinate and develop its public sector work. Edgar joins the North East firm as a partner after 12 years with the council, where he was assistant director of planning, property, highways and environmental work.

Masons has entered into a joint venture with North Yorkshire County Council legal services department. As well as bidding for PFI and public sector work, the agreement will include sharing resources such as staff training and resources.

Bird & Bird has taken on an Allen & Overy (A&O) litigation partner. Jeremy Sharman is leaving A&O’s Hong Kong office to join Bird & Bird’s London operation. He joined the firm in 1985, before becoming a partner in 1997.

Brick Court Chambers barristers have successfully overturned a ban on tobacco advertising across Europe in two separate actions. Barristers at the magic circle set, including leading commercial silk Jonathan Sumption QC, David Anderson QC and Jemima Stratford, secured an injunction as an interim measure to stop the introduction of the ban. Derek Wyatt QC and David Anderson QC then took the case to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, where the judges ruled the European Commission had acted illegally by introducing a directive that would ban tobacco advertising and sponsorship by 2006. It is anticipated that the House of Lords will follow advocate general Niall Fennelly’s opinion.

Osborne Clarke has added three new members to its European network Osborne Westphalen Alliance (OWA). De Wolf & Partners, Pedersen & Jantzen and Hedman & Partners join from Belgium, Denmark and Finland respectively. Osborne Clarke recently lost its presence in Denmark when Horten & Partners quit the alliance earlier this year. OWA now has eight member firms.

Barnett Alexander Chart (BAC) is set to dissolve. The demise follows the departure of a team of corporate and PFI lawyers, including chairman Anthony Fine, for Altheimer & Gray five months ago. Of the remaining lawyers, managing partner Peter Moody and partner Richard Stader are taking a team of litigators to Tarlo Lyons. Head of property John Chart will form a new practice, BAC Law, with two other partners.

China is to allow Hong Kong lawyers to practise mainland law for the first time. The move is a disappointment for City firms intent on bolstering their Chinese practices. China recently relaxed some of the rules governing foreign firms practising in the country in a bid to join the World Trade Organisation.

Due to a production error in last week’s issue, the story “Stephenson Harwood hires insurance head” referred to the departure of several partners, including the head of corporate from Barlow Lyde & Gilbert. The departures were actually from Stephenson Harwood. We regret the error.