I later found out that during this whole period of time… when I was being romanced by Citibank, that they had reason to believe — in fact, they knew — that Howrey was in default of material covenants, and they didn’t tell me that.
– Stephen O’Neal, a former partner of Howrey LLP, in a deposition in his pending litigation against Citibank. O’Neal and another former Howrey partner, David Buoncristiani, allege that Citibank committed fraud by encouraging them to finance their capital contributions with Citi, claiming that Howrey was financially sound when the bank knew Howrey wasn’t.
Howrey dissolved almost an entire year ago, but its bones are still filling warehouses and servers across the world, and costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in storage fees.
The firm’s estate is embroiled in the painstaking process of destroying old files or returning them to former clients. There is still a long, long way to go. In today’s Washington Post, we get to see a vivid illustration of the problems involved in putting to rest a massive law firm that bridged the paper and electronic eras.
It is also a good cautionary tale for other firms: these documents will not just go away, even if your firm bites the dust…
Alas, many at Howrey found Ruyak’s leadership to be less than inspiring. He was frequently cast as the villain in the demise of the firm, which he led for over a decade before its dissolution. As noted by the WSJ Law Blog, Ruyak was criticized “[i]n some corners of the blogosphere” for “not respond[ing] swiftly enough to declines in the firm’s productivity” and “not sufficiently shar[ing] management responsibilities with his fellow partners.” According to the American Lawyer, he caused the firm to overexpand, taking on too much risk — in the form of lateral partners and contingency cases, among other things — when it should have been buckling down for tough times ahead.
Today brings news that Robert Ruyak has found a new professional home. Where’s he going?
Although it officially passed away back in March, when its partners voted for dissolution, the law firm of Howrey LLP continues to twitch in its grave — or maybe even step out of its grave and walk around a bit, like a zombie from a horror flick.
Howrey continues to have a presence on Twitter, for example. A D.C.-based reader pointed out to us that the April 2011 issue of Washington Lawyer magazine contained a partnership announcement for the firm, on page 44: “Stephen D. Palley and Andrew R. Sommer have been named partner at Howrey LLP.” (Both landed on their feet: Palley is now a principal at Ober|Kaler, and Sommer is now of counsel at Winston & Strawn.)
And, strangely enough, Howrey is still seeking client engagements….
Although Howrey LLP officially dissolved as a partnership as of March 15, some operations continued beyond that date. But at the close of business today, the firm is going into a more complete shutdown, due to a withdrawal of bank financing.
“Last night, we received notice via email that Howrey is closing as of today, because CitiBank refuses to pay the payroll,” one source reported. “CitiBank has also refused to pay our PTO [paid time off], and our pension contributions.”
“Citibank has closed the door on Howrey operations today, more than a month before the May 9th date listed on WARN notices,” a second tipster confirmed. “No PTO, pensions will be paid out.”
UPDATE (6 PM): Citi takes issue with Howrey’s take on events. From a Citi spokesperson: “We are deeply disappointed in Howrey’s mischaracterization of the situation. Citi is not responsible for the employment practices of a client and has acted in a professional manner throughout this process.”
The partners of the law firm of Howrey LLP, founded in 1956, have voted to dissolve the existing Howrey partnership. The dissolution will take effect on March 15, 2011, according to a press release that was issued earlier tonight by the firm.
The firm’s chairman and CEO, Robert Ruyak, has not been the most popular person during Howrey’s long and painful disintegration (which arguably started over a year ago, with some key partner defections). But few would disagree with the statements he made this evening.
“This is a very difficult time for our firm, for our attorneys and for our staff,” Ruyak said. “Many of us have spent our entire legal careers at Howrey and remain proud of what we built. We find some solace in the fact that our people have been so well received by their new firms. They are first class professionals and deserve the respect accorded to leaders in their fields.”
We extend our sympathies to everyone at Howrey who will be affected by the firm’s demise, and we wish them the best of luck as they search for new workplaces. Many superb lawyers and staff have worked at Howrey over the past 55 years, and as we’ve chronicled in these pages, many are being courted and welcomed by other law firms — a testament to their talents and abilities.
Additional commentary and links, as well as the full press release, appear below.
Yes. The voting started today at 11:30 AM (Eastern time) and remains underway, according to Am Law Daily. We will keep you posted, either by adding updates to this post or publishing a new post.
Meanwhile, the CEO (and poet laureate) of Howrey, Robert Ruyak, gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal about the apparent downfall of his firm. As summarized by the WSJ Law Blog, Ruyak blamed Howrey’s troubles on a combination of (1) experiments with contingency fees and alternative fee arrangements, (2) impatient and risk-averse partners, and (3) discovery vendors.
Are you finding it hard to keep track of where all the Howrey partners are ending up? Join the club. Luckily, there’s a new resource out there that can help….
We’re hearing reports — not yet confirmed, so please take them with the proverbial grain (or shaker) of salt — that Winston & Strawn has rescinded some or all of its offers to partners of Howrey.
The supposed catalyst for the collapse: antitrust star Sean Boland, who had been leading the talks on the Howrey side, pulling out of the deal. It has been rumored that he might take his team not to Winston but to Baker Botts (which has already absorbed other Howrey talent).
What we do know for certain is that the partner exodus from Howrey continues. Here is the latest confirmed news.
UPDATE: Various updates have been (and are still being) appended — after the jump….
As we mentioned in our last story on the embattled Howrey law firm, the remaining partners will vote this week on whether to wind down the 55-year-old shop. According to Am Law Daily, that vote is set to take place on Wednesday.
For the past few weeks, Winston & Strawn has been waiting in the wings, hoping to help itself to Howrey’s healthiest parts. But as we’ve chronicled in these pages, many of the strongest partners and practice groups have already defected to other firms.
Let’s discuss the latest developments — and also learn the fate of current 3Ls holding offers from Howrey….
Partners at the differently abled challenged Howrey law firm continue to leave the reservation in droves. Last night, Am Law Daily reported on the departure of antitrust litigatrix Roxann Henry. She’s joining Dewey & LeBoeuf, which has picked up a number of Howrey refugees (including Henry Bunsow, former vice-chairman of the firm).
What’s next for Howrey? According to Legal Week, the remaining partners plan to vote next week on whether to wind down the firm. (For a discussion of possible Howrey endgames, see Am Law Daily, which interviewed partnership law expert Robert Hillman, a professor at UC Davis.)
After the dissolution vote, Howrey can focus on talking to Winston & Strawn about which associates and staff Winston might want (as well as other assets, like the Howrey name). As previously discussed, a few weeks ago Winston made offers to about 75 percent of Howrey’s partners. It looks like about 35 percent of Howrey’s remaining partners have agreed to join Winston, and Legal Week reports that confirmation letters went out to them last weekend.
Average law school debt for graduates of private universities hovered around $122,000 last year. With only 57% of new attorneys actually obtaining real lawyer jobs, recent graduates have a lot to consider when it comes to managing their student loan payments. Thanks to our friends at SoFi, today’s infographic takes a look at student loan debt, including the possible benefits of refinancing for JDs…
Kinney Recruiting’sEvan Jowers is currently in Hong Kong for client meetings and still has a few slots available through October 22. Evan will also be in Hong Kong November 14 to December 15. Further, Robert Kinney has been in Frankfurt and Munich this week and is available for meetings with our Germany based readers.
One of our key law firm clients has referred us to one of their important clients in the US, Europe and China – a leading global technology supplier for the auto industry – in order to handle their search for a new Asia General Counsel and Asia Chief Compliance Officer.
Kinney is exclusively handling this in-house search.
This position will have a lot of responsibility and include supervision of eight attorneys underneath them in the Asia in-house team. The new hire will report directly to the global general counsel and global chief compliance officer, who is based in the US. The new hire’s ability to make judgement calls is going to be as important as their technical skill set background.
The position is based in Shanghai and will deal with the company’s operations all over Asia and also in India, including frequent acquisitions in the region.
It is expected that the new hire will come from a top US firm’s Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong offices, currently in a top flight corporate practice at the senior associate, counsel or partner level. Of course, the candidate can be currently in a relevant in-house role.
The JOBS Act created new tools for companies to publicly advertise securities deals online. As a result, thousands of new deals have hit the market and hundreds of millions in capital has been raised, spurring a wealth of new business development opportunities for attorneys.
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