Musical Chairs

Andy DeVooght

We’ve discussed in these pages the trend of going “from Biglaw to boutique” (and it was the title of Tom Wallerstein’s column for us as well). Lawyers who could easily work at mega-firms are opting instead for the flexibility and collegiality of small-firm practice — and clients are following them.

Today’s notable move involves Andy DeVooght, coming out of the U.S. Attorney’s in Chicago. DeVooght has an enviable résumé. Before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, he worked as a partner at Winston & Strawn and clerked on the U.S. Supreme Court, for the late Chief Justice Rehnquist.

Instead of returning to Biglaw, a common path for someone in DeVooght’s shoes, he’s joining a buzz-generating boutique. Which one?

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Don’t mess with Texas — or the presence of Weil Gotshal in that sovereign republic great state. The firm has just announced that it’s deep in the heart of Texas — and staying there.

That’s the latest news from the Weil Weil West — Glenn West, that is, the managing partner of the firm’s Dallas office and a member of the WGM management committee. West just issued a public statement reaffirming the firm’s commitment to the Lone Star State, despite the departures of dozens of lawyers from Weil’s Dallas and Houston offices in recent weeks.

So what does this statement say, and how did it come about?

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Things have quieted down a bit on the Weil Gotshal front. About a week has passed since our last report on Biglaw’s biggest source of drama.

Today we have some news to share about WGM — information gleaned from partner departure memos out of Dallas, the site of the biggest defections, and a real estate report from New York, the King’s Landing of Weil Gotshal….

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Last month we wrote about a Biglaw firm that’s in big trouble. The firm in question: Dow Lohnes, a former Am Law 200 firm that has been hemorrhaging lawyers and clients (and lost two more partners last week, to Venable). In our story about Dow Lohnes, we noted that “[i]t seems possible that the firm could merge out of existence — if it’s lucky enough to find a partner.”

Fortunately for the remaining lawyers and staff at Dow Lohnes, the sinking ship has located some lifeboats. A larger and stronger firm, a member of the Am Law 50 and Vault 100, will be picking up many (but not all) of Dow Lohnes’s lawyers.

Who’s the white knight riding to the rescue of Dow Lohnes?

(Note the UPDATES added at the end of this post.)

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* Musical chairs (White House hottie edition): Michael Gottlieb, former associate counsel to President Barack Obama, is joining the Washington, D.C. office of Boies Schiller & Flexner. [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]

* The search is on for jurors to serve in the criminal trial for Bernie Madoff’s former employees, but in a case of guilt by association, it’s proving to be a difficult exercise. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* “Democracy is not on autopilot,” said Justice Kennedy at Penn Law. Just because we have a Constitution doesn’t mean it will prevail — which is being evidenced by our government now. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

* Because no one could be more “non-essential” than a law student during this mess, the government shutdown is taking a toll on their externship placements throughout the district. [National Law Journal]

* The Princeton Review’s annual law school rankings are out, and boy, have things changed — including the schools with the best career prospects. We’ll have more on this news later today. [Chicago Tribune]

* Cooley Law is teaming up with Eastern Michigan University to offer joint degrees. But we thought Cooley was teaming up with Western Michigan University. Is Cooley infiltrating all Michigan schools? [MLive.com]

Welcome to today’s episode of everyone’s favorite Biglaw drama, As The Weil Turns. Today brings word of another Weil coming off the wagon — specifically, another partner defection.

And no, it’s not in Texas, where Weil Gotshal’s offices — which have lost about 15 partners in the past few weeks — are starting to feel as besieged as the Alamo. It’s up here in the northeast, closer to WGM’s headquarters in New York.

Who is leaving which Weil office?

(Please note the UPDATES added below regarding where this partner is going.)

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If the Houston office of Weil Gotshal & Manges ends up shutting down in the wake of the recent partner defections, management in New York might not shed a tear. In fact, it might have been part of their master plan.

As one Weil source told us, the Houston litigation defections were “not a surprise,” since the June layoffs “took away all but one assistant and all of the associates. The associates that were allowed to stay were switched to contract positions and have since left. Basically, it was an elimination by New York of the Houston group from the bottom up.”

Dallas, however, is a different story. It’s more of a standalone office, with a more diversified mix of practices, and it makes a bigger contribution to the firm’s bottom line.

But the latest partner departures do raise serious questions about its future. Which Dallas partners just left, and where are they going?

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Last Friday, we broke the news of four partners in Houston leaving the powerhouse firm of Weil Gotshal & Manges. This news came just a week after eight partners in Dallas announced their move to Sidley Austin.

In today’s episode of “As The Weil Turns,” we’ll reveal the identities of the Houston defectors, then explore the possible reasons for their leaving Weil….

(Please note the multiple UPDATES at the end of this story.)

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The ship be sinking?

As in-house columnist Mark Herrmann put it, “Dewey know who’s next?” No, we don’t. But we certainly have some guesses about major law firms that are existentially challenged.

Here at Above the Law, we do maintain a shortlist of Biglaw firms that could go under. But, truth be told, the list is not that exciting. With a handful of exceptions, the firms that populate it are big regional firms, not national or international behemoths, and they cluster toward the lower echelons of the Am Law 200 or NLJ 350. Put another way, no firm on our list boasts the size and stature of Dewey & LeBoeuf. (If you know of a firm that should be placed on our list, please email us, subject line “Biglaw Death Watch,” or text us, at 646-820-8477.)

But even if a firm isn’t a household name, lawyers and staffers will suffer when it goes under. Let’s hear about the latest large law firm that appears to be on the ropes….

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It seems that Weil Gotshal & Manges enjoys the title we recently bestowed upon it: “the reigning drama queen of Biglaw.” The juicy news and novel plot twists just keep on coming.

For those of you just tuning into “As The Weil Turns,” here’s a quick recap. Last week, eight prominent partners left Weil’s Dallas office for Sidley Austin. There was lots of speculation for what motivated the move. The Boston office of Weil instituted an unusual policy for raising attorney morale. Weil in Houston lost another partner to a rival.

Today brings more news: fresh partner departures from Houston, additional drama out of Dallas….

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