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A Wachtell Lipton Partner’s Mysterious Departure

On Monday, we noted the surprising news of a young partner leaving Wachtell Lipton to start his own boutique firm. Given the rarity of partner departures from the super-lucrative Wachtell, my colleague Staci Zaretsky described the news as “basically like seeing a unicorn.”

Why did Jeremy Goldstein, a 40-year-old partner in the firm’s executive-compensation practice, leave WLRK? The American Lawyer piece about Goldstein’s move painted a happy picture of a lawyer striking out on his own to be more entrepreneurial and to run his own business.

But we wonder if there’s more to this story than meets the eye….

We first heard about Jeremy Goldstein’s departure in mid-June, from a source who said Goldstein had left “within the past month or so,” for reasons that “folks seem very skittish to discuss.” When we tried to email Goldstein at his WLRK account, we received this message, which confirmed his departure:

Thank you for your recent email message. However, please be advised that Jeremy Goldstein is no longer with Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. If your message pertains to an ongoing Firm matter, or you wish to get a message to Jeremy Goldstein, please contact [redacted].

We tried to get our message to Goldstein through the designated contact, but we never heard back from him. Then, a few weeks later, the Am Law Daily piece appeared, and Goldstein’s LinkedIn profile got updated to note that he’s now at Jeremy L. Goldstein & Associates, LLC.

(Random aside: based on his Am Law interview, it sounds like Goldstein doesn’t yet have associates and instead gets outside help on an “as needed” basis. If that’s the case, he might want to ditch the “& Associates” in “Jeremy L. Goldstein & Associates, LLC,” since it could raise ethical issues. For more on this issue, in the context of Sonia Sotomayor calling her solo practice “Sotomayor & Associates” back in the day, see Eric Turkewitz and Carolyn Elefant.)

The news of Goldstein leaving Wachtell to launch his own firm is… surprising. Sure, the news can be spun, and spun well. But the bottom line is that as a Wachtell Lipton partner, Goldstein got to work on some of the biggest and most exciting deals around — and earn a ridiculous amount of money for doing so.

In the latest Am Law 100 rankings, Wachtell once again came out on top, with profits per partner of almost $4.8 million. And remember that Wachtell is, except for a handful of top partners, a mostly lockstep firm. So even as a fairly junior partner at Wachtell — he had been a partner for just six years — Goldstein was surely one of the highest-paid executive-compensation lawyers in the country. Superstar M&A lawyers at other firms can make more than the $2 million to $3 million that Goldstein was pulling down at Wachtell, but there are not many ERISA/exec-comp/employee-benefit lawyers who earn that much.

So what prompted Goldstein’s departure from Wachtell? One of our sources suggests that it might have been driven in part by personal issues, including complications related to or reflected in a messy divorce — a divorce that last summer made the pages of the New York Post:

A would-be divorcé from Connecticut wants to know who sent his estranged wife malicious e-mails claiming he’d been carrying on with a hooker named “Sasha.”

Jeremy Goldstein is suing Yahoo! in Manhattan Supreme Court, demanding that the popular e-mail service unmask the identity of the individual who is making his Fairfield County divorce even worse than it already is by sending “defamatory e-mails.”

“The statements contained in the e-mail are completely false and without a shred of truth,” Goldstein insists in his lawsuit, referring to “Sasha,” the escort an anonymous Internet user says he’s been cavorting with throughout his 10-year marriage.

Goldstein’s suit against Yahoo and Time Warner was filed in July 2013, then dropped without explanation in August 2013. We’ve posted documents from the case on the next page.

We reached out to both Jeremy Goldstein and Wachtell Lipton for comment on his departure. Neither got back to us. This isn’t surprising, given the firm’s penchant for secrecy. The first rule of Wachtell is that you don’t talk about Wachtell.

But if you want to talk about Wachtell, Jeremy Goldstein, and his mysterious departure, we’re all ears. Feel free to email us or text us (646-820-8477). Thanks.

(Flip to the next page to view (1) Goldstein’s impressive bio and (2) the filings in Goldstein v. Yahoo, Inc.)

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