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The Soap Opera of ‘Dallas’: Now Starring Weil Gotshal

Some of our older readers may, like me, remember the television show Dallas. This deliciously dishy, prime-time soap opera was packed with suspense, drama, and conflict.

Suspense, drama, and conflict have also haunted the high-powered law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges this year. In June, the firm conducted major layoffs, which shocked the legal world due to Weil’s profitability and prestige. In April, Weil lost some prominent litigation partners to Quinn Emanuel in D.C., amid significant controversy.

So it’s fitting that today’s juicy story comes from the Dallas office of Weil Gotshal, which just lost a slew of partners to a rival firm under interesting circumstances….

(Please note the various UPDATES added to the end of this post.)

Here is what we’ve heard about the Weil – Dallas situation:

1. All of the female partners (7) in Weil Gotshal’s Dallas office have resigned and will be joining Sidley Austin.

2. Five of the partners are in litigation; two are in finance.

3. All litigation associates are expected to follow.

4. Firm management met with all associates yesterday and key members of the management committee are expected to arrive in Dallas today.

Why are the partners departing? We’re receiving conflicting reports on that subject. According to one source, the partners in question were “unhappy with the firm’s overall vision of the Dallas office.” According to another source, some of the partners were adversely affected by the partner pay cuts that accompanied the layoffs over the summer.

These departures follow on the heels of another notable loss for Weil’s Dallas office. Not long ago, a fairly senior corporate partner, Michael Saslaw, left Weil to join Vinson & Elkins.

Some folks in Weil’s Dallas office are worried. “There’s a real concern that New York is not supportive of the Dallas office and that the Dallas office may be closed despite management suggesting otherwise,” one source told us. “The Dallas office has historically been one of the most profitable offices in the firm.”

We have reached out to both Weil Gotshal and Sidley Austin. We have not heard back yet from either firm, but if and when we do, we will update this post. We will also update this post as we acquire additional information about the partners who made the move.

If you have information about this situation that you can share, please feel free to email us or to text us (646-820-8477). Thanks.

UPDATE (11:50 a.m.): It now appears that the number of departing partners is eight rather than seven. The seven women are being joined by one male litigation partner.

It’s not a done deal as to the litigation associates going over to Sidley. A source informs us: “Actually, it is sounding like a number of the litigation associates may be adversely impacted if the departing partners decide not to take them along for the ride. This could get ugly.”

UPDATE (12:20 p.m.): A tipster tells us, “You should focus on the fact that two of the partners were co-heads of their practice groups and one of the two co-heads was on the firm’s management committee. This is a significant loss.”

It would appear that the practice group co-head and management committee member was Yvette Ostolaza, who has what one source describes as an “immense” book of business. From her Weil bio: “Yvette Ostolaza is co-head of Weil’s Complex Commercial Litigation practice and a member of the Firm’s national Management Committee. For more than 20 years, Ms. Ostolaza has developed a reputation in Texas and nationally as a versatile counselor who excels at all aspects of complex disputes.”

UPDATE (2:30 p.m.): The other practice group co-head appears to be Angela Fontana, who served as co-head of Weil’s banking and finance practice.

UPDATE (2:50 p.m.): Another departing partner: finance lawyer Kelly Dybala.

UPDATE (3:20 p.m.): We’ve been told that the other departing partners are Vance Beagles (the male litigation partner), Yolanda Garcia, Michelle Hartmann, Penny Reid, and Angela Zambrano.

Remaining at Weil is P.J. Himelfarb, so the Dallas office technically does have one woman partner left. But, a tipster tells us, “she’s not really even a Dallas partner. She works out of New York and comes to Dallas only on rare occasion. She has an associate’s office. So ‘all’ female partners is pretty safe to say.”

UPDATE (4:05 p.m.): Here is the Sidley Austin press release. It begins:

Sidley Austin LLP announced today that eight lawyers will be joining the firm as partners in the Dallas office later this month. Six will be joining the firm’s Complex Commercial Litigation practice, and two will become members of Sidley’s Private Equity practice. The practices of the lawyers in this group are national in scope and focus on providing sophisticated services for leading corporations and private equity sponsors. The group is moving to Sidley from Weil, Gotshal & Manges and includes Yvette Ostolaza and Angela Fontana, both of whom co-chaired national practice groups at their prior firm. The additional new partners are Penny Reid, Vance Beagles, Angela Zambrano, Kelly Dybala, Yolanda Cornejo Garcia and Michelle Hartmann.

You can read the full release here.

UPDATE (9/18/2013, 12:15 p.m.): Here is our follow-up post on the Weil-to-Sidley partner departures.

Leading Corporate Partner Michael Saslaw Joins Vinson & Elkins in Dallas [PR Newswire (press release)]
Sidley Austin LLP Adds Team of Litigation and Private Equity Lawyers [Sidley Austin (press release)]

Earlier: Nationwide Layoff Watch: Major Cuts Come To Weil Gotshal
Musical Chairs: Quinn Emanuel Snags Two Weil Gotshal Partners — and Weil Is Not Happy About It
Mean Weil? There’s Another Side To This Story….

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