Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post is written by Michael Allen, the Managing Principal of Lateral Link, who focuses exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.
Near the entrance of the Calyon Building, the previous headquarters of Dewey & LeBoeuf, lies Jim Dine’s “Looking Toward the Avenue,” a triumvirate of headless statues inspired by the Venus De Milo. Where lie the visages of this homage to the prototypical form of Venus and furthermore, in the aftermath of Dewey, where have the pieces of this former empire landed?
Since May of 2012, there have been numerous articles inciting gossip and foretelling the troubles of Biglaw, but few have offered a retrospective of the overall trends in lateral moves from Dewey since the closure of the firm. The “largest winner” of the Dewey sweepstakes was Winston & Strawn, which added 23 partners (about 11% of those who moved in the final month), including Jeffrey Kessler, a titan of antitrust law who has represented every players’ union in the “big four” sports in the United States. Approximately seventy lawyers followed Kessler’s group.
Which other firms fared well in picking up Dewey lawyers?
A week earlier, on May 3rd, a former Dewey head, Morton Pierce, joined White & Case. Pierce brought with him seven other partners, a very respectable haul for White & Case. Morton, known by his colleagues for his healthy work ethic, is rumored to bring revenues well into eight figures every year.
O’Melveny & Myers scored a huge coup with the addition of Richard Shutran, Junaid Chida, and Arthur Hazlitt, respectively the chairs of Dewey’s Corporate Department, Renewable and Clean Energy Department, and the Tax Department. The trio left Dewey on May 8th, bringing along with them their illustrious clientele.
One of the more notable Dewey partners, Alexander Dye, along with his extremely lucrative insurance group, left on March 17th to join Willkie Farr & Gallagher. Along with John Schwolsky and Michael Groll, Willkie Farr & Gallagher substantially increased their profits by adding these three rainmakers plus a handful of other talented attorneys.
DLA Piper was another firm that benefited from Dewey’s departures. Around April 3rd, DLA managed to convince four M&A partners — and later nine more partners — to join their ranks, including the intriguing John Altorelli. He joined as the co-chair of the finance practice.
Ralph Ferrara, the prize acquisition of LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & Macrae, who was famous for his work with Shell and Zurich Financial Services, transferred his practice to Proskauer Rose. Famous for arguing several cases in front of the Supreme Court, he is a huge addition to Proskauer’s litigation practice.
The aftermath of a firm closure is not simple for every departing partner. Of the 200 partners who left in the final month, 11% left Biglaw altogether — some went in-house, and some left to start their own firms, including Henry Bunsow and Denise De Mory. Bunsow escaped Howrey’s implosion in 2011 only to witness the swan song of Dewey a year later.
Bruce Bennett was another rainmaker who came to Dewey in early 2011 and was then forced to jump to Jones Day on May 13th of 2012. Bennett, renowned for his work in bankruptcy, greatly bolsters Jones Day’s bankruptcy practice. Bennett was instrumental in guiding Orange County, CA, through bankruptcy in 1994, and has been vital to the current restructuring of Detroit.
Another blow was dealt to Dewey on May 8th when the self-dubbed “Climan Group,” a group of four M&A partners and one IP partner, departed Dewey for Weil Gotshal & Manges. Between them, they have experience representing many high technology companies including Adobe, Dell, and Oracle.
Steven Davis, the former head of Dewey & LeBoeuf, has remained under the radar for the last year, aside from appearing at proceedings involving the bankruptcy of Dewey. The New Yorker reports his former right hand man, Steve DiCarmine, is attempting to engender his own “second act” as a student at Parsons School of Design in New York.
In the final five months of Dewey’s existence, the frequency of defections occurred at peculiar rates whereby the firm would leak several attorneys a month on average, until mid-March, when the rate of lateral movements increased exponentially. The impetus for this increase was partly due to the departure of the Dye, Groll, Schwolsky group who left on March 17th for Willkie Farr & Gallagher. From that point on, attorneys left in waves of usually five every few days.
All these moves demonstrate that the lateral market is robust enough to absorb the collapse of a colossal international firm. Dewey’s former attorneys have escaped from the wreck relatively unscathed, with most partners finding positions comparable to the one they held previously. While the times may be tough for Biglaw, our past research has shown that although the lateral market is not immune from market shocks, it still nonetheless thrives even in times of economic uncertainty.
Disclosure: This series is sponsored by Lateral Link, which is an ATL advertiser.
Lateral Link LLP is one of the largest legal recruiting agencies in the world, with 13 offices in the United States and Asia. Lateral Link has been recognized by the Wall Street Journal, The American Lawyer, the ABA Journal, the Daily Journal, and the National Law Journal for its innovative approach to legal placement. Lateral Link recruiters are former practicing attorneys who have consistently succeeded in placing partners, associates, general and corporate counsel into some of the most reputable law firms and organizations in the world.