Cadwalader Wickersham Taft new logo CWT AboveTheLaw blog.jpgEarlier this month, we broke the news of three prominent Proskauer partners — Louis Solomon, Hal Shaftel, and Colin Underwood — jumping ship to Cadwalader. In addition, Michael Lazaroff, who has been senior counsel at Proskauer, will join Cadwalader as special counsel (as noted in the New York Law Journal).

In its press release, Cadwalader touted their arrival as a coup. And that’s generally how the news was covered (which is so often the case with law firm moves).

But covering every move by partners from Firm A to Firm B as a triumph for Firm B, the receiving firm, isn’t always accurate. Sometimes Firm A is perfectly happy to see lawyers leave. Sometimes firms even squeeze out departing partners — a trend that has been on the upswing during the recession.

With respect to the Proskauer-to-Cadwalader moves, is there perhaps more to this than meets the eye?

Various commenters suggested that not everyone at Proskauer would be sad to see these litigators leave. There was disagreement over how sizable a book of business they have, but it does sound like some of them — especially Louis Solomon — are less-than-fun to work with. For example, here’s one opinion:

ha, ha, ha, hahahaha, hahahahahaha….

– former proskauer associate that escaped to a far more humane environment but would actually consider going back if all The Crazies continued to leave….

See also:

Very happy to see them (well, at least Lou [Solomon]) go. He was almost universally loathed at Proskauer…. I feel sorry for everyone at Cadwalader who comes in contact with him.

There are a number of more colorful opinions, focused largely on Lou Solomon, in the comments to our earlier post. We won’t quote them here — as noted, they are colorful — but you can read them here.

One source who reached out to us offered a very detailed assessment of the situation:

[T]his was either (a) a coup by Cadwalader or (b) an ouster (basically of Lou Solomon) by Proskauer. Two highly divergent takes, obviously. (I’ll explain, in a sec, why either possibility is plausible.) It’s widely rumored that a handful of Proskauer associates will follow Solomon, et al.

It’s fortunate for Proskauer that most of the attorneys who came with Solomon via Proskauer’s “annexation” of much of the lit boutique Solomon Zauderer ca. 2003 are staying. [Several] have taken on very central roles in the lit dept and / or the firm, and were and are in many cases a step above the average Proskauer lit partner, in terms of credentials, skills, reputation, etc….

Why are divergent takes (a) and (b) equally plausible, in my mind? Lou Solomon became co-chair of the lit dept in ’05 or thereabouts. Prior to Proskauer, he was at Cravath, and then Solomon Zauderer, joining the latter firm as a named partner when former named partner Sidney Stein was appointed to the federal bench. Solomon sought to bring more rigor and seriousness to Proskauer’s lit dept. He succeeded in many ways. I believe the firm’s lit practice has improved in recent years, evolving from one with only certain niches (e.g., soft IP, insurance, and anything involving a sports client), into one that took on large cases (particularly on the transnational front) and acquitted itself nicely in opposition to “better” firms.

That gave Solomon (more) of a name. And it served the firm, generally speaking, without cramping the style of, say, an established IP partner who wanted to leave at 6 every day, take a 2-hour lunch, retain a plum caseload, and argue every few years before the USSC. From this perspective, Solomon’s a desirable catch, especially for another large, similarly tiered, firm like Cadwalader, which could use a jolt to its lit practice.

Concomitantly, I think Solomon’s approach changed the firm environment significantly for lit associates and junior partners. Basically, Solomon himself didn’t mind working all the time. So, why should anyone else mind? I know first-hand that multiple lit partners who’d been with the firm many years — including a couple senior ones — didn’t like Solomon’s style. They liked running their own niche or individual practices, with little accountability, working with whomever they wished. That style’s affected adversely by a more centralized approach where (esp. under Solomon) the dept stretched its resources to take on large cases, requiring large teams, placing folks’ time demands in conflict with partner X’s desire to freewheel things on some contract matter arising out of . . . a film project, a dispute between a sports team and a player, etc. And amidst all that, associates were huge losers, pulled in all kinds of directions, worked even harder (one must assume) after the firm’s repeated layoffs in ’08-’09. To the extent all this coalesced and came to the surface at some point, and assuming it did, I doubt Lou Solomon left Proskauer a very popular man.

So, to sum up, perhaps some at Proskauer have a “good riddance” take on the defections.

In fairness, some do view this as a loss for Proskauer:

This does not bode well for proskauer – they must really be hurting.

And the members of the departed trio aren’t universally disliked. One of them in particular, Colin Underwood, is supposed to be great:

Anyone who has worked with these 3 has to admit they are brilliant lawyers. On top of that, Colin [Underwood] is just about the kindest, most decent person I have met in the practice of law. Proskauer’s loss is Cadwalader’s gain.

Accord:

Agree with [the earlier commenter], Colin is amazing.

And some advice for the group’s new CWT colleagues:

Cadwalader associates should jump at the chance to work with either Hal or Colin. Both are great guys, great teachers, and great lawyers…not necessarily in that order, but the first two qualities are incredibly rare in big firm partners. They will be missed at PR, especially by the associates who were lucky enough to work with them.

But even this reader doesn’t love Lou Solomon:

Lou has a big book of business, but that’s about all that will be missed. He’s a great lawyer but has no cognizable social skills…the type of guy who e-mails you at 5 a.m. while on vacation and criticizes you for the timing of your wedding.

A big-time rainmaker who can be difficult to deal with? Assuming this characterization is accurate, Solomon wouldn’t be alone at CWT. Does the name Dennis Block ring a bell?

Cadwalader Adds Three Partners From Proskauer [New York Law Journal]

Earlier: Musical Chairs: Cadwalader Snags Three Prominent Proskauer Partners


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