Biglaw, Dewey & LeBoeuf, King & Spalding, Lateral Moves, Litigators, Musical Chairs, Partner Issues, United Kingdom / Great Britain

Dewey Know Where the Firm Leaders Are Going? Heads of Departments Head for the Exits

Partner departures from the fast-sinking Dewey & LeBoeuf have reached a point where it’s difficult to track them in real time. We’ll focus our coverage on the biggest defections. There are multiple other resources for monitoring all the moves, the latest being the Wall Street Journal’s interactive graphic. (Similar trackers are available from Am Law Daily and Thomson Reuters.)

Last week, an internal memo gave Dewey partners the green light to consider “alternative opportunities” with other law firms. Many partners have availed themselves of that permission, with dozens of partners leaving the firm since the memo’s issuance. According to Thomson Reuters, about 150 of Dewey’s 300 partners have resigned since the start of 2012.

And now one of Dewey’s leaders — the chair of the firm’s Global Litigation Department, and a member of the multi-partner Office of the Chairman — is departing. Where is he going?

As usual, various UPDATES — including news of another departure by a department head and Chairman’s Office member, and additional details of litigators on the move — after the jump.

Jeffrey Kessler

Late last week, we reported that Jeffrey Kessler — head of litigation at Dewey, co-chair of its sports litigation practice, and most importantly, one of the four members of the Office of the Chairman — was looking for a new firm for himself and several of his colleagues. Interestingly enough, he was shopping himself and his group around despite publicly insisting to the media that “there is no plan [for Dewey] to close on May 15,” and no plans for a vote of dissolution.

In a story from yesterday, Am Law Daily reported that Kessler had narrowed his talks to a handful of firms:

Several sources familiar with one large group still at Dewey, a 60-lawyer litigation practice led by global department chair Kessler, say that it has held discussions with Greenberg Traurig, King & Spalding, Morrison & Foerster, and Winston & Strawn. One source told The Am Law Daily that Kessler was mulling several options, including keeping the group intact or spinning off different pieces to various firms in order to salvage as many associate jobs as possible. Kessler, who also co-chairs Dewey’s sports litigation practice, did not respond to a request for comment on where his group might land.

Above the Law can now report, based on multiple sources at Dewey, that Jeffrey Kessler is going to Winston & Strawn. The deal was finalized yesterday afternoon, and Kessler will be starting at Winston on Monday.

(Neither Kessler nor a Winston spokesperson responded to immediate requests for comment. If and when they do, we will update this post.)

We understand that Kessler will be moving from Dewey to Winston with a significant number of other partners — at least ten, possibly more. Partners we’ve heard mentioned as likely moving — but not confirmed, like Kessler — include, in alphabetical order, Suzanne Jaffe Bloom, Eva Cole, Seth Farber, David Feher, David Greenspan, Adam Kaiser, Harvey Kurzweil, and Paul Victor.

We also hear that some associates and staff will be joining Winston with the partners, but we don’t yet know the number. It’s heartening to hear that some partners are bringing junior lawyers and support staff with them to their new homes.

Of course, not all partners have not been so loyal to their colleagues. As one Dewey source told us yesterday, “Some partners have been atrocious human beings — including telling their associates for years that they were forbidden to work on anyone else’s matters, but then abandoning those same associates to a sinking ship without so much as a ‘thank you for your hard work.'”

For Dewey lawyers and staffers who have not yet found new employment, check out this Facebook group, the Dewey & LeBoeuf Job Share (via Am Law Daily). The group, which currently has 569 members, is a place for sharing potential job opportunities for D&L attorneys and staff.

UPDATE (11:25 AM): Here are some Dewey dispatches from around the world:

1. London: Remaining London associates aren’t guaranteed pay beyond May 31, according to The Lawyer (via the ABA Journal).

2. Rome and Milan: The Italian offices “will separate from Dewey and operate as a standalone firm under a name yet to be decided,” according to Legal Week (via Am Law Daily).

UPDATE (12:15 PM): We’re hearing reports, somewhat vague in nature, that the D.C., Boston, and Albany offices of Dewey may be going the way of the New York office (i.e., laying off staff and associates this month, in preparation for eventual closure).

UPDATE (12:35 PM): The California offices of D&L are scheduled to shut down by May 15.

UPDATE (12:55 PM): Here are reports on Jeff Kessler’s move from the New York Times (Peter Lattman) and the WSJ Law Blog (Ashby Jones). The NYT piece has this interesting background on Kessler:

A Brooklyn native, Mr. Kessler earned his college and law degrees from Columbia University. As one of the country’s leading sports-industry lawyers, Mr. Kessler has represented all four major sports leagues players’ unions and numerous star athletes individually, including the basketball player Lattrell Sprewell and the football player Terrell Owens.

Mr. Kessler, who had a contract paying him $5.5 million a year at Dewey, was a vocal proponent of the firm’s star system of compensation that gave top producers outsize multiyear, multimillion-dollar contracts…. In an interview in March, Mr. Kessler said there was immense pressure to pay big producers who brought in the clients, while the partners that did the grunt work were worth less and less. He analogized it to the sports world, where the salary spread has widened between star players and others on the team….

“The value for the stars has gone up, while the value of service partners has gone down,” he said.

Read the full piece over at DealBook.

Richard Shutran

The WSJ also has this news of another major departure — that of Richard Shutran, also a member of the Office of the Chairman:

Richard Shutran, the chair of Dewey’s corporate department is leaving for O’Melveny & Myers, according to a person familiar with the matter. Joining him are four other partners, including Junaid Chida, the co-chair of the firm’s renewable and clean energy practice, and Art Hazlitt, the chair of the firm’s tax department.

Read more at the WSJ Law Blog.

UPDATE (3:35 PM): The WSJ Law Blog has added this update to its post:

[T]he move from Dewey to Winston & Strawn is more than just Jeff Kessler. Much much more.

Winston will take 24 of Dewey’s litigation partners, and about 60 lawyers total, according to Dan Webb, Winston’s chairman. Some of the bold-faced names include Seth Farber, Susanne Jaffe Bloom, Paul Victor and Harvey Kurzweil. Webb said that while most of the litigators are in New York, lawyers in London, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Chicago will be joining Winston.

It’s a happy day,” said Webb to the WSJ. “We’d been looking to build up our litigation, especially in New York, and this goes a long way to accomplishing that.”

If you have Dewey news to share with us, please email us or text us (646-820-8477; texts only, not a voice line). We will be UPDATING this post with the latest developments; please refresh your browser for the latest version. Thanks.

Dewey & LeBoeuf Job Share [Facebook]
Leaders Remain at Dewey as Nearly 30 More Partners Stream Out the Doors [Am Law Daily (reg. req.)]
Departing Dewey [Wall Street Journal via WSJ Law Blog]
From ‘Drip Torture’ to Closure: Dewey Begins Laying Off Associates, Gives 1 Week Notice [ABA Journal]
More Dewey rainmakers leave for other firms [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
Dewey latest: no guarantee of London associate pay after 31 May [The Lawyer]
Weil hires Dewey West Coast corporate team as Italy prepares to spin off [Legalweek]
Dewey’s California Offices To Shutter by May 15 [The Recorder (sub. req.)]

Earlier: Dewey Have Any Shot of Surviving? Internal Memo Urges Partners To Seek ‘Alternative Opportunities’
Dewey Know When LeBoeuf Is Cooked? When Associates Are Laid Off En Masse
Dewey Know When It’s Over? Source Says ‘We Work For The Banks Now’
Dewey Have Any Partners Left To Be Poached? Not Many After the Latest Departures
April Lawyer of the Month: A Biglaw King Without a Crown

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