Dissolution, Law Firm Mergers, Layoffs, Locke Liddell & Sapp, Locke Lord, Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell, Morgan & Finnegan

Nationwide Dissolution Watch: Morgan & Finnegan?

Morgan Finnegan intellectual property IP law.jpgThe law firm of Morgan & Finnegan, a leading intellectual property boutique, will be dissolving imminently, according to several sources at the firm. Some (but not all) of its lawyers, including prominent partners John Sweeney and James Gould, will join Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell.

Last month, we mentioned the possibility of a merger between the two firms. It now appears that it won’t be a complete merger, but a selective acquisition of certain lawyers (a la Sonnenschein’s absorption of Thacher Proffitt & Wood attorneys when TPW dissolved). As a result, Morgan & Finnegan lawyers who aren’t offered spots on the Locke Lord life raft will be out of jobs.

John Sweeney will become the deputy managing partner of Locke Lord’s New York office, while James Gould will assume the role of co-head of the intellectual property department. At least 11 other Morgan & Finnegan partners will also be making the move. Joining Locke Lord as equity partners are Matthew Blackburn, William Feiler, Peter Fill, Harry Marcus, and Steven Meyer. Coming aboard as income partners are Seth Atlas, Robert Goethals, James Hwa, John Osborne, Richard Straussman, and Andrea Wayda.

Rumors of dissolution have been swirling around Morgan & Finnegan for quite some time. Back in August, the firm engaged in staff and attorney layoffs.

As for how the word got out, something rather strange happened on Friday. An email from an anonymous address was sent to a large number of M&F associates, attaching the Locke Lord offer letters to Sweeney and Gould (posted below — but you may have seen them already, since they were in wide circulation over the weekend, sent to us by multiple correspondents). From one source:

Morgan & Finnegan is dissolving on Monday. They are sending termination letters to everyone. Then, a number of those people will receive offer letters from Locke Lord (so it is not really an acquisition).

Not everyone will get offers. A large number of staff and attorneys will be laid off on Monday. Rumor has it around 70 people. Most first years, and some other associates. Pretty much all staff. LLBL just wants the lease and some of the partners….

Interesting that [Sweeney and Gould] are making off with $1+ million apiece at the cost of most of the jobs of their employees. Needless to say, most people are disgusted. John Sweeney is the person who has kept saying that people should not worry and the firm is fine. Now he is cutting his losses and running.

More discussion — plus links to the James Gould and John Sweeney offer letters, which are an interesting read, especially if you don’t know what a lateral-partner offer letter looks like — after the jump.

How did the offer letters get out? It’s not clear. One source speculates that they were originally disseminated by “a possibly disgruntled secretary upset about the way his/her colleagues have been treated of late.” A second tipster reports:

[S]omeone emailed [them] out to a lot of associates, and apparently someone (or the same person?) emailed them to various staff at M&F. As for how that person accessed them originally — could be a few ways. Perhaps it was staff who had access to these documents, like a secretary, or perhaps they were printed out and left somewhere. All I know is, at this point, they’ve made the rounds.

Since they’ve “made the rounds,” we’re happy to share them with you. We’ve summarized key provisions below; you can access the original documents via the links at the end of the post. Happy reading.

James Gould and John Sweeney offer letters (summary of key terms)

  • Start date: February 2, 2009.
  • Positions: Equity partners; co-head of intellectual property department (Gould); deputy managing partner, New York office (Sweeney).
  • Target Compensation: $1,000,000 (Gould); $1,600,000 (Sweeney).
  • Target Client-Billable Hours: 1900 hours.
  • Draws: Monthly, with additional periodic distributions (including a final distribution with respect to 2009 revenues on or about January 15, 2010). To be calculated based on 75 percent of Target Compensation.
  • Capital Contribution: Due within 90 days of joining the firm, in accordance with attached table (setting forth a range from $50,000 to $175,000, tied to Target Compensation).

    Update: We reached out to Sweeney, Gould, and Morgan & Finnegan prior to posting this; nobody got back to us. A statement from Locke Lord is now available over at Am Law Daily:

    “We’re excited about the possibility of the lawyers from Morgan & Finnegan joining Locke Lord, but it’s premature to make any announcements at this time because details have not been finalized,” spokeswoman Julie Gilbert says.

    More details about the history of Morgan & Finnegan are available in Nate Raymond’s post.

    John Sweeney offer letter (PDF)

    James Gould offer letter (PDF)

    Locke Lord to Hire Bulk of Morgan & Finnegan [Am Law Daily]

    Earlier: Law Firm Merger Mania: Locke Lord Could Acquire Morgan & Finnegan

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