Four partners and their teams from Cobbetts’ social housing group are making a move to Shoosmiths in a major defection.
The 31-strong group, led by partner Andy Ballard, is leaving "following strategic decisions by both firms to refocus their social housing offerings in different ways".
The switch takes place from Saturday and is being billed as amicable, but legal sources in Birmingham claim Cobbetts did not want to lose its people.
To that extent it is being seen as something of a coup by Shoosmiths and a blow to Cobbetts.
Shoosmiths said it had been looking for some time to appoint specialists with social housing expertise to expand its services to its public sector clients and complement its existing national strength in residential and commercial development.
Cobbetts is putting a brave face on the move, saying it is interested in focusing strategically on regeneration rather than supporting a stand alone social housing practice area.
Head of Shoosmiths Birmingham office, Joel Kordan, said: "Our nationally recognised residential and mixed use development team successfully provides services to private home builders but we want to expand into the affordable housing sector.
"This requires a full service approach from lawyers with a track record of delivering advice to registered social landlords and local authorities.
"We don’t currently have this expertise so when this team decided that its future did not fit with Cobbetts’ strategic direction and refocused housing offer, we were happy to secure positions for them at Shoosmiths.
"Although the new team will be based in Birmingham, they will be incorporated into our existing national property, litigation, employment and corporate teams whilst delivering advice to housing associations."
Michael Shaw, managing partner from Cobbetts, commented: "We have a large developer client base and an established public sector practice already. We have taken this opportunity to refocus our housing practice to ensure we move on the delivery of our capabilities in the broader context of our public sector offering.
"The Government’s recent housing paper clearly sets out the future and objectives for the sector and provides us with great opportunities to develop our business further through our projects and regeneration work."
Last year, both firms sealed their public sector credentials by securing places on the OGCbuying.solutions categories under the legal services Catalyst Framework Agreement - a shake-up in Government procurement arrangements.
Shoosmiths successfully tendered for framework agreements on the property and estates, employment and pensions and intellectual property panels and Cobbetts for employment and pensions.
Cobbetts is also working on regeneration schemes of national interest including MediaCity:UK, Leeds Arena, and for Walsall Council.
Shoosmiths’ public sector bodies and not-for-profit client list includes Northamptonshire County Council and South East England Development Agency.
Mr Shaw continued: "We are delighted to have worked with Shoosmiths chief executive, Paul Stothard and his team. The two firms enjoy strong relationships and the collaboration borne out of this has ensured that the interests of all concerned have been met."
The moves take the number of partners at Shoosmiths to 104, 20 of which are based in Birmingham.
Shoosmiths has offices in Basingstoke, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Nottingham, Reading and Solent.
Cobbetts has offices in Birmingham, Leeds, London and Manchester.
A top 50 law firm with a projected fee income of £63 million for 2007/2008, the firm has over 97 partners working across its core practice areas of corporate, real estate, banking, commercial, litigation, employment and private capital.