Howrey like dem apples

The troubled law firm of Howrey has previously been compared to a ship. If the comparison is accurate, then one has to wonder whether the ship be sinking.

Look at how many sailors — officers, even — are abandoning ship. The latest news: eleven Howrey lawyers have left for Morgan Lewis & Bockius, in Chicago and California.

A look at the departing attorneys — plus reports about recent and upcoming Howrey conference calls, and questions about the fate of those holding offers from the firm — after the jump….

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In our last story on the trials and tribulations of Howrey, we expressed doubt that a full-on merger between Howrey and Winston & Strawn would take place. We suggested that Winston would probably wind up “picking up large chunks of Howrey, maybe even entire offices — just like Sonnenschein picked up 100 lawyers from Thacher Proffitt, during TPW’s final days.”

And that appears to be what’s happening now. According to The Recorder, Winston extended individual offers to a little over 75 percent of Howrey partners over the weekend.

And what about the remaining 25 percent? A recruiter familiar with the situation told The Recorder that they either have conflicts issues or aren’t interested in winding up at Winston.

What else do we know about the situation?

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Developments are flying fast and furious out of Howrey. Yesterday we passed along reports that Howrey’s merger talks with Winston & Strawn were off. Today we’re hearing that they might be back on (or that they never stopped in the first place).

According to the U.K.-based Legal Week (via the ABA Journal), the talks are ongoing. The parties are represented by Thomas Fitzgerald, managing partner of Winston, and Sean Boland, vice chairman of Howrey. Winston is apparently attracted to antitrust at Howrey, an area where Winston wants to expand.

Corroboration of continued Winston / Howrey discussions from a U.S. source, plus some interesting internal emails from Howrey leadership, after the jump.

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(Plus two interesting internal emails.)

When we last wrote about goings-on at Howrey, the once-strong law firm that’s now experiencing troubled times, we mentioned the possibility of partner losses in the Chicago office. The firm pushed back on this, denying knowledge of any imminent defections in the Windy City.

It now seems, however, that additional partner departures may be on the horizon — in Chicago, and elsewhere too. As reported in Crain’s Chicago Business (via WSJ Law Blog), the Chi-town powerhouse of Winston & Strawn recently discussed a possible merger with Howrey — but then decided against that approach, opting instead to pick off specific groups and partners from Howrey.

The Howrey situation is starting to look a lot like what happened to Heller Ehrman. A well-respected firm with a widely admired culture encounters business difficulties. Key partners and groups (especially IP) start leaving for greener pastures or more stable platforms. A potential white knight emerges — Mayer Brown in Heller’s case, and Winston & Strawn in Howrey’s — but then decides to order a la carte from the menu of partners, practices and offices, instead of going for the chef’s tasting menu.

A distressed employee of the firm sets up a blog to serve as a clearinghouse for updates. Heller had Heller Highwater, and Howrey had Howrey Doin’.

But now it looks like Howrey Doin’ is… done. If you surf over to http://howreydoin.wordpress.com/, the blog’s former address, you learn that “[t]he authors have deleted this blog.”

What the heck happened? We have a statement from the author of the blog, as well as a response from the firm.

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When asked for some 2011 predictions by the folks over at Hellerman Baretz, I had this to say (among other commentary): “Although business is generally picking up, some firms still haven’t managed to shake off the effects of the recession — and they are now seeing significant defections, as their partners leave for firms that have weathered the storm better. So, in the next year, look for at least one large — i.e., Am Law 200 — law firm to either dissolve or be swallowed up by another firm as an alternative to dissolution.”

One firm that has been experiencing some major partner departures and general upheaval is Howrey. This post is the first of what we expect to be a series of stories about the firm. If you have information about Howrey that you can share, please email us or text us.

It’s getting hard to keep track of all the partner defections at Howrey. But let’s give it a shot, as well as talk about various Howrey offices that might not be long for this world….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Howrey Going To Fix This? (Partner Defections, Office Closings — Not Good.)”

I’m sorry but the pyramid [structure of law firms] is not going to last as long as those in Egypt.

Robert Ruyak, managing partner and CEO of Howrey LLP

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