McKee Nelson Ernst & Young Nab New Partners

Less than a fortnight after setting up, Ernst & Young's new associate Washington DC law firm has gone on a poaching spree and brought in two new partners.

McKee Nelson Ernst & Young, which is backed by a loan from Ernst & Young and based in the accountants' Washington offices, has persuaded King & Spalding partner, Tom Wessel to follow three of his former tax colleagues to the new firm.

William McKee, William Nelson and Abraham Shashy left King & Spalding to launch the new venture last week.

The other new recruit is James Bridgeman who joins from Washington firm, McGuire Woods Battle & Boothe. He specialises in federal income tax aspects of business transactions, including joint ventures, M&As and structured finance transactions. The firm pledges to have about 20 lawyers by the end of this year, increasing to 50 the end of 2000.

The American Bar Association (ABA) prohibits law firms from sharing fees, and the new firm will not be owned by Ernst & Young. But the arrangement – the first direct link between a Big Five accountancy firm and a US law firm – will allow Ernst & Young to offer legal and other professional services to clients.