US firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman has taken on international disputes lawyer Deborah Ruff from Norton Rose Fulbright to launch a London dispute practice, The Lawyer can reveal.

Ruff was a partner at Fulbright and Jaworski for just over a year before the firm merged with Norton Rose in June 2013. She was a partner at Norton Rose for four years, where she specialised in international arbitration within a variety of sectors including energy, infrastructure and construction, TMT and finance and corporate.

In her new role, Ruff will lead Pillsbury’s global arbitration practice and spearhead the disputes practice in the UK.

Pillsbury chair David Dekker said: “Deborah is an international arbitration lawyer of the highest distinction. Her broad experience in cross-border disputes significantly enhances our litigation practice offering, and our clients will benefit greatly from her insights into the energy and construction industries – both of which are major areas of strength at Pillsbury.”

Litigation head Deborah Baum added: “International arbitration is an area of Pillsbury’s litigation practice that we have been keen to grow, and Deborah is well-qualified to serve as a cornerstone of those efforts. Her reputation, depth of industry knowledge and impressive case history are all beyond reproach, and I am incredibly excited to welcome her to the firm.”

In May, the firm hired Morgan Lewis & Bockius former head of business and finance in London Chris Harrison, as well as Mayer Brown finance partner Trevor Wood, for its London office.

In February 2015, the firm’s chair at the time, Jim Rishwain, revealed plans to double the then-13-partner City office’s headcount over that same year.

According to figures from The Lawyer’s US Top 50 firms in London report, the firm had a total of 24 lawyers as of May 2017. The hiring of Ruff will take that total to 25 and will satisfy the firm’s desire to expand its energy practice, which it had identified along with financial services, technology and real estate as areas for growth.

Speaking of her appointment, Ruff said: “I am very much looking forward to beginning this new chapter of my career at Pillsbury. I’ve been consistently impressed with the talented lawyers I’ve met and their collaborative mindset. What’s more, the firm’s industry focuses align so well with my own. It is really a perfect match, and I cannot wait to get started.”

Ruff leaves Norton Rose Fulbright as the firm settles in to its merger with Chadbourne & Parke, which went live on the last day of June. It is understood that client conflicts stalled the merger that was in fact supposed to go live on 1 May.

Prior to the merger, the firm’s litigation leadership was shaken up with the transfer of its head Deirdre Walker to Dubai. She has since been replaced by Peter Scott, who specialises in antitrust and competition litigation.

Ruff is the most high-profile lawyer to leave the firm after it lost global investigations duo Chris Warren-Smith and Melanie Ryan to Morgan Lewis in April.

Global chief executive Peter Martyr told The Lawyer in July that he did not expect many partner exits from the firm despite not imposing a lock-in.

“What we’ve done is give partners a very good business opportunities, something exciting, something to work for, and something for their clients,” he said. “That’s a lot to throw in front of partners,” he said.