Top lawyers are deserting Howrey  en masse  and are joining rival law firms in search of greener pastures.

Around 17 lawyers from Howrey's antitrust practice group in Brussels have quit the firm to join Shearman's Brussels office. Stephen Mavroghenis, the new managing partner of Howrey's Brussels office, and Trevor Soames, its former managing partner, are among those who have quit.

Shearman's European Managing Partner Creighton Condon said the addition will strengthen the firm's antitrust capabilities and reflects our continued commitment to expanding and integrating our European service offering.

Meanwhile, Howrey partner James Batchelder has joined Ropes & Gray. He is an intellectual property (IP) litigator.

Howrey's litigation partner Michael Padden has also quit the firm to join Chicago's Levenfeld Pearlstein. Padden has vast experience in IP, antitrust and business litigation.

Howrey's greatest nemesis, however, could turn out to be Winston & Strawn, which is flooding almost all Howrey's lawyers with offer letters. It remains to be seen whether the existing partners and rainmakers at Howrey will take the bait. The deadline to join Winston is next week.

Other hotshots who have quit Howrey in the recent past are:

* Irvine, California-based William Rooklidge (co-chair of the IP practice), who has joined Jones Day

* London-based IP managing partner Mark Hodgson and Germany-based IP partners Thomas Adam and Jochen Herr, who have joined Field Fisher Waterhouse

* European IP partners Denis Monegier du Sorbier and Willem Hoyng, who started their own boutique firm Hoyng Monegier

* European IP head Benoit Strowel, Amsterdam managing partner Bart van den Broek, Brussels IP head Carl de Meyer and Amsterdam partner Joris van Manen, who joined Hoyng Monegier

* Vice-chairman and IP expert Henry Bunsow, who joined Dewey & LeBoeuf

* Gary Bendinger, the co-chair of the firm's litigation practice, and litigation partners Gregory Ballard and Kevin Burke, who joined Sidley Austin