Howrey is struggling with its European intellectual property (IP) practice following the departure of its London-based managing partner Mark Hodgson, who has joined Field Fisher Waterhouse.

Hodgson's exit has dealt a severe blow to Howrey as he is one of the country's leading patent litigators and has represented clients before the UK courts as well as managed multi-jurisdictional litigation.

In recent years, Hodgson has advised on some of the leading patent cases including Court of Appeal case Eli Lilly v Human Genome Sciences and House of Lords case Angiotech v Conor Medsystems. He specializes on IP, regulatory, product liability and parallel import matters.

Hodgson is the latest to exit Howrey's London IP practice. Last year, Marjan Noor, Paul Inman and Richard Willoughby left Howrey to join Simmons & Simmons, Wragge & Co and Rouse Legal respectively.

Hodgson's departure also leaves Howrey with just four partners in London.

The London office is now left with just litigator John Evans and antitrust partners Geert Goeteyn, Shaun Goodman and Tom McQuail. It is unclear who would head Howrey's London office, which Hodgson has managed since September 2008.

Earlier this week, Howrey's top lawyers in Germany have also left the firm in favor of Field Fisher. They are Howrey intellectual property (IP) partners Thomas Adam and Jochen Herr in Munich and Duesseldorf-based Christoph Lenz. Joachim Feldges, formerly managing partner of Howrey's Munich and Dusseldorf offices, will be heading Field Fisher's German offices.

Howrey global managing partner and CEO Robert Ruyak said the firm has made a conscious decision to scale back its European presence in favor of operating through a network of other firms.

Due to very difficult and repetitive conflict issues in the IP area, we made a strategic move to reduce significantly our on-the-ground European IP practice, Ruyak told Legal Week.

As of 1 January, we have spun off a number of our IP partners and associates into a new independent law firm on the continent with whom we will continue to cooperate. This did not include Mark, who I understand felt that it would be better to be part of a UK firm. We hope to continue to work with him as well, Ruyak said.

Three months back Howrey's Europe IP head Willem Hoyng and a dozen other partners had left the firm to start their own boutique firm Hoyng Monegier, citing client conflicts and poor work-flow with the US side of the firm.

The team breaking away from the firm included European IP head Benoit Strowel, Amsterdam managing partner Bart van den Broek, Brussels IP head Carl de Meyer and Amsterdam partner Joris van Manen.

In recent months, Howrey also witnessed the exit of three top New York-based lawyers. They are Gary Bendinger, the co-chair of the firm's litigation practice, and litigation partners Gregory Ballard and Kevin Burke. They have all joined Sidley Austin.