As we mentioned in our last story on the embattled Howrey law firm, the remaining partners will vote this week on whether to wind down the 55-year-old shop. According to Am Law Daily, that vote is set to take place on Wednesday.
For the past few weeks, Winston & Strawn has been waiting in the wings, hoping to help itself to Howrey’s healthiest parts. But as we’ve chronicled in these pages, many of the strongest partners and practice groups have already defected to other firms.
Let’s discuss the latest developments — and also learn the fate of current 3Ls holding offers from Howrey….
Law firm marketing expert Ross Fishman has been analyzing possible firm names that might be used if Winston absorbs a large number of Howrey lawyers. He suggests that the firm might go with “Winston Strawn & Howrey,” at least in the short term, before eventually reverting to the original “Winston & Strawn.” This option would preserve the strength and prominence of the Winston brand, but also acknowledge the arrival of the Howrey lawyers and their clients.
But with each passing day, it seems less and less likely that Winston will want to give any recognition to the Howrey personnel. One reason is that it’s probably going to end up with far fewer Howrey partners than it originally hoped for and expected, according to Kim Eisler:
Already Dewey has walked off with antitrust attorney Roxann Henry, a 30 year Howrey veteran, and Dewey firm sources have confirmed that at least four other highly regarded Howrey attorneys are headed not to Winston, but to Dewey. Those partners include Marc Schildkraut who has worked on some of the biggest merger deals of the decade; Jacqueline Grise, a friend of Henry’s who has worked with her on matters for the large international food company, Nestle’s; M.J. Moltenbrey, who once headed an antitrust division in the Department of Justice; and Mark Clifford Schechter, who like Moltenbrey was a part of the Justice Department’s efforts a decade ago to break up Microsoft. This is significant, because Microsoft’s lead counsel in that antitrust dispute was Dan Webb, the most powerful and influential partner at Winston.
The conflict over Howrey partners who challenged Microsoft is just part of the spider web of conflicts that continues to dog the combination of Howrey with Winston partners. There are dozens of conflicts involving pharmaceutical clients, ranging from Winston’s representation of generics, to Howrey’s close relationship with Merck.
You can read the full post over here. Eisler suggests that Winston probably won’t end up with many of Howrey’s heavy hitters in antitrust, which was a major selling point for a Howrey deal, and he quotes a source as follows: “In short, contrary to how the legal press keeps reporting this [as a Winston / Howrey deal], there is a far more interesting chess game going on involving Dewey, Winston, and of course those at Howrey who have been trying to herd the group to Winston.”
Eisler adds that perhaps the real draw for Winston at this point in the game is Howrey’s Houston office. Apparently Howrey laterals in Houston have been offered two-year guarantees from Winston, while laterals in D.C. will only get one year before they can be demoted or dismissed. This is because, according to Eisler, “Winston does not currently have an office in Houston, and Howrey’s highly touted gas and oil lawyers there would fit right into a large national energy practice in that field that Winston already has. Winston management considers the Houston partners as the real prize here.” (No offense to former Wisconsin prosecutor Ken Kratz, who thinks that he is the prize.)
If you’re a Howrey energy partner in Houston, Winston might be interested in you; if you’re a graduating law student with an offer from Howrey, you’re out of luck. The unfortunate 3Ls who were hoping to start at Howrey, or to be taken aboard the Winston lifeboat, recently received some bad news. Here’s the relevant language from the terse, three-sentence emails that went out:
“It is with great sadness that I must inform you that Howrey is rescinding, effective immediately, its offer to you to join Howrey as an associate.”
If you were hoping for a Howrey salary advance to help pay for your cap and gown, you’ll need to come up with another plan.
One poor Howrey offeree who has been left in the lurch reached out to us for help. If you’re a legal employer interested in talking to this individual, please feel free to email [email protected].
P.S. Yes, that’s a Dewey / “do we” pun in the headline. But don’t worry, we’ll be back to Howrey puns in no time; we just need to take a breather.
Misdirection Play? [Shark Tank Legal]
“Winston & Howrey” – the Naming Issue [Ross's Law Marketing Blog]
Howrey To Vote On Dissolution This Week [Am Law Daily]
Little big law [Larry Ribstein / Truth on the Market]
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Howrey