Biglaw, Citigroup, Dissolution, Howrey LLP, Weirdness

Dead Firm Billing: Howrey Going to Keep Doing Business?

Although it officially passed away back in March, when its partners voted for dissolution, the law firm of Howrey LLP continues to twitch in its grave — or maybe even step out of its grave and walk around a bit, like a zombie from a horror flick.

Howrey continues to have a presence on Twitter, for example. A D.C.-based reader pointed out to us that the April 2011 issue of Washington Lawyer magazine contained a partnership announcement for the firm, on page 44: “Stephen D. Palley and Andrew R. Sommer have been named partner at Howrey LLP.” (Both landed on their feet: Palley is now a principal at Ober|Kaler, and Sommer is now of counsel at Winston & Strawn.)

And, strangely enough, Howrey is still seeking client engagements….

Check out this report, from Am Law Daily:

Despite its dissolution in mid-March, Howrey is seeking a flat fee contract worth at least $10.5 million to do work for New York State’s North Country Power Authority (NCPA)….

[NCPA board members] are being asked to sign a contract with Howrey for legal services provided to [the Alliance for Municipal Power] and the NCPA “in connection with the legislative process, preliminary feasibility studies, energy studies, and PSC Proceedings, and other projects relevant to establishing a public utility,” according to a copy of the proposed agreement provided to The Am Law Daily by an anonymous source.

As it turns out, the NCPA and Howrey have a history together:

[Professor James] Monroe, the NCPA’s current chairman, tells The Am Law Daily that Howrey’s relationship with the AMP dates back to late 2005/early 2006. He says the firm “did a great job getting a law passed by the legislature that allowed us to have something we’ve been working for almost 17 years, which was a municipal power company.”

Howrey’s work for the AMP paved the way for the creation of the NCPA, Monroe says. He credits antitrust of counsel Kenneth Anderson with handling the bulk of the regulatory work. All of Howrey’s legal work was done on contingency, Monroe says, noting that the firm has yet to be paid for its efforts. (Anderson did not respond to a request for comment.)

“The NCPA does not have any contract with anybody yet, although I think the general feeling is that we will compensate them for the representation they did for AMP,” says Monroe, adding that those fees will likely approach $3 million. “So while [those fees] were for AMP, we as the NCPA will accept those charges and obligations.”

Ah, nice — a few million more for Howrey’s creditors.

But how exactly would this work, in terms of a dissolved firm representing a client?

[Howrey dissolution committee member Robert] Green told the NCPA’s negotiations committee that Howrey could legally enter into a new contract and that there was no legal impediment to having a downsized firm handle future work for the NCPA…. Both of the NCPA’s outside attorneys — Peter Lekki and associate Robert Poyer of Syracuse’s Hancock Estabrook — agreed with that assessment when asked about it by NCPA board members….

Howrey has the appropriate structure and financial conditions to carry out the contract to conclusion, Green told the NCPA board members, stating that the firm possesses the necessary financial resources and staff members to successfully complete its obligations to its client.

Well, just be sure that Howrey’s big lender, Citibank, is on board. There was some turbulence at Howrey (or what remained of it) after Citi pulled the plug on most payroll funding to the firm. We heard, for example, that because offices were locked up in the wake of this shutdown action, lawyers and staff were having difficulty accessing client files.

Howrey going to land this representation? Wait and see.

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Howrey

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