Biglaw, David Boies, Lateral Moves, Litigators, Musical Chairs, Partner Issues, Partner Profits

Musical Chairs: David Bernick Departs From Boies Schiller

David Bernick

As we mentioned earlier, prominent litigator David Bernick is leaving Boies Schiller for Dechert. Bernick joined Boies Schiller just a year ago, to much fanfare, so some were surprised to see him go so quickly.

But others were not shocked. As the always insightful Alison Frankel observed on Twitter, “Is anyone who knows David Bernick surprised he was mismatch at firm dominated by David Boies?”

Perhaps not. Some of our readers predicted this union wouldn’t last long….

When we wrote about Bernick joining Boies last year, one commenter offered the following opinion: “Unless Boies is retiring tomorrow, I’m not sure the firm can handle this much ego in one tiny office. Supernova implosion in 3-2-1…”

Another reader had this rebuttal: “Boies’s office is in Armonk. Bernick will be working out of the NYC office.” But the distance between BSF’s Armonk and Manhattan offices, about 40 miles or 50 minutes by car, was never the point. The real issue was whether a firm that’s small by Biglaw standards could have room for two big names and personalities.

And, of course, their potentially conflicting clients — a problem that grows bigger as firms expand, as Boies Schiller has over the years. Peter Lattman of DealBook reports:

Mr. Bernick’s departure is in large part because conflicts of interest with existing Boies Schiller clients prohibited him from representing certain other companies, said Dawn Schneider, a spokeswoman for Boies Schiller.

“We wish him well for the future,” Ms. Schneider said.

Bernick seems to be leaving BSF on good terms. Here’s what one of our tipsters told us about him: “I attended a lunch lecture he gave about the antitrust trial. He is a great presenter and just drew me right into the stories of the case. I can see that he is a great trial lawyer. Unfortunately, I did not work with him while he was here.”

A second source wasn’t able to form an opinion due to the brevity of Bernick’s tenure: “I actually know nothing about Bernick — I mean, at all. He came, he saw, he went. I forget how you say that in Latin. But I completely missed him. That will teach me not to blink.”

Well, keep your eyes open when dealing with a lawyer as aggressive and as smart as David Bernick. As one former adversary of his commented, “I’ve never litigated against a more giant d****ebag. Bernick represents everything wrong with the American legal system.”

But that sounds like sour grapes. A former colleague of Bernick from his thirty-plus years at Kirkland & Ellis offered this rejoinder:

Litigating against David Bernick is not fun. I’ve litigated with David Bernick, and even that is rough. But he is simply one of the greatest lawyers ever, and he achieves great results for his clients. Sorry that your experience was so traumatic, and I am sure David Bernick does not care what you think.

If Bernick’s feelings are hurt, he can wipe his tears with hundred-dollar bills. Dechert is welcomimg him with open arms — chairman Andrew Levander praised Bernick as “one of the best lawyers out there, one of a handful of elite lead trial lawyers operating on the national stage” — and is surely paying Bernick a pretty penny, as BSF must have done when it hired him a year ago. And before joining Boies, Bernick earned millions as the general counsel of Philip Morris International. He was one of the nation’s highest-paid GCs in both the 2011 rankings and 2012 rankings.

Congratulations and good luck to David Bernick at Dechert. He has jumped around a fair amount over the past few years, but hopefully he’ll find happiness in his latest home.

P.S. We welcome any insights or information from readers about Bernick, Boies, or Dechert. Feel free to email us or text us (646-820-8477). Thanks.

Big Name Is Leaving Boies’s Firm After a Year [DealBook / New York Times via Morning Docket]

Earlier: Musical Chairs: Star Litigator David Bernick Joins Boies Schiller

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