It is getting hard to sugarcoat the situation at O’Melveny & Myers. We have been covering their extensive partner departures over the last few weeks.

The news from earlier this week continues that trend. Allen & Overy is opening a second U.S. office with, you guessed it, O’Melveny partners (specifically, financial regulatory partners Barbara Stettner and Chris Salter, and counsel Charles Borden).

Up until now we’ve been reporting that there has at least been stability in OMM’s firm leadership. But that may no longer be the case. Today’s report suggests that firm chairman A.B. Culvahouse Jr. may be forced out sooner rather than later….

UPDATE (7/2/11): Additional comment from the firm, after the jump.

The report from the ABA Journal details a potential leadership fight brewing at O’Melveny:

[Arthur] Culvahouse’s term ends in February 2013, but a vote on the person who will eventually replace him could come as early as this summer. The election was originally scheduled for the fall of 2012…

An anonymous source told Reuters that at least five lawyers are competing for Culvahouse’s position, but O’Melveny spokeswoman Marjory Appel says the source is incorrect. She also says it’s wrong to link the earlier vote to partner defections, since Culvahouse announced the early transition process back in March. Since then, the firm’s policy committee has been “conducting an orderly transition from chair to chair elect, using best practices in leadership succession,” Appel said. “It has long been the firm’s intention to have a gradual transition from the chair to the chair elect.”

UPDATE (7/2/11): OMM spokesperson Marjory Appel objects to characterizing the succession situation as marked by controversy, telling Above the Law:

It is patently false to describe our Chair succession as a “leadership fight.” That could not be further from the truth. We are implementing an orderly succession plan that was announced in March of this year — it is not the least bit controversial.

Given what happened at Howrey, we have to pay a lot of attention when partners start jumping ship and firm leadership appears unstable.

But hopefully new firm leadership, whenever it happens, will encourage current O’Melveny partners to stay the course with the firm instead of jumping to greener pastures.

A&O to Launch Second US Office with O’Melveny Hires [ABA Journal]
O’Melveny & Myers shakes up leadership plan [Thomson Reuters]

Earlier: What’s Going On At O’Melveny & Myers?
Good News at O’Melveny & Myers


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