Taylor Wessing Paris dozen jump ship to Nixon Peabody
The 12 senior lawyers at the heart of the dispute between Taylor Wessing's Paris arm and Nixon Peabody have quit the UK law firm to launch a Paris office for Nixon Peabody. The lawyers, all of whom were non-equity partners at Taylor Wessing, handed in their notices earlier this month in the wake of failed merger talks between the firms. The departures will leave Taylor Wessing's Paris office with 45 fee earners, of whom eight are partners, including managing partner Christian Valsamidis.The latest defectors - whose impending departures were detailed within a motion filed earlier this month by Taylor Wessing's legal team - will join ex-managing partner Arnaud de Senilhes, who left Taylor Wessing earlier this year, at Nixon Peabody. Confirmation that they are set to switch to Nixon Peabody came just two weeks after Legal Week's sister title, The American Lawyer, exclusively revealed that Taylor Wessing's Paris outpost had launched a $5m (£2.6m) damages claim against the US firm. It argued Nixon Peabody had violated a 2007 agreement not to recruit Taylor Wessing lawyers if merger talks between the two firms fell apart. Those merger talks ended in November 2007.Taylor Wessing's UK managing partner Michael Frawley said fears that the UK arm was planning to tap into outside investment under the Legal Services Act had prompted the French arm to enter the breakaway talks in July 2007. In response to the Taylor Wessing suit, Nixon Peabody has filed a request for a preliminary injunction in New York, claiming the end of the merger talks voided prior agreements relating to recruitment between the firms. The US firm asked the judge to block the lawsuit so that it could push ahead with its plans to hire the French lawyers.However, the most recent motion filed by Taylor Wessing in late August opposes Nixon Peabody's request for the preliminary injunction and also states that Taylor Wessing is attempting to stop the partner moves by asking the Paris Bar Association to step in. It argues that, under French law, the partners must keep working for Taylor Wessing for at least three months before defecting. Other documents filed in the high-stakes suit provide additional insight into why the merger talks fell apart, with one partner saying the talks collapsed when "it became clear Nixon was not prepared to provide us with the sort of financial terms we were seeking".Partners at rival firms have questioned Taylor Wessing's lawsuit, saying it could make it difficult for the office to rebuild in France. One managing partner of the City arm of a US firm told Legal Week: "I cannot see the point of litigating when they have gone anyway. Maybe I am missing something, but the last thing I would want as a client would be to be caught up in litigation between two firms."Another senior City partner added: "Paris can be a difficult market and a whole team leaving will make life difficult. Unfortunately, something like this will stick in the memory of existing partners."Taylor Wessing declined to comment.
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