Vicious Infighting

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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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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“Who shot J.R.?” That was the question that everyone (hi Mom!) was dying to know on the wildly popular prime-time soap opera of Dallas.

“Who drove out Yvette Ostolaza?” That’s the question everyone is dying to know on the wildly popular prime-time soap opera of Weil Gotshal.

Okay, “drove out” is probably not the right phrasing here, for reasons we’ll explain below. But there’s no denying that people are keenly interested in the drama surrounding the departure of eight Weil partners to Sidley Austin in Dallas.

Let’s take a closer look at the situation, shall we?

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Some of our older readers may, like me, remember the television show Dallas. This deliciously dishy, prime-time soap opera was packed with suspense, drama, and conflict.

Suspense, drama, and conflict have also haunted the high-powered law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges this year. In June, the firm conducted major layoffs, which shocked the legal world due to Weil’s profitability and prestige. In April, Weil lost some prominent litigation partners to Quinn Emanuel in D.C., amid significant controversy.

So it’s fitting that today’s juicy story comes from the Dallas office of Weil Gotshal, which just lost a slew of partners to a rival firm under interesting circumstances….

(Please note the various UPDATES added to the end of this post.)

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You’ve been served.

Nudists seem like they’d be pretty chill people. It’s the kind of thing a bunch of aging hippies do when they want to pretend that they’re living in a production of Hair.

That’s why a protracted legal showdown between a nudist resort and one of its residents over swinging, cock rings, and property rights is so unusual.

Catherine Holmes feels the camp has morphed from a free-wheeling celebration of Naturism into a swingers club and hostile environment for children. She wants to sell her cabin and move. Camp administrators think she’s a troublemaker and want to kick her out of her cabin. They maintain that all the sexually provocative things Holmes alleges (some of which she backs with photographic evidence) are just “jokes.”

If everyone agrees that Holmes should move, why can’t everyone just agree to let her sell?

Because there’s no shortage of cojones in a nudist colony, that’s why…

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At the risk of sounding like a legal academia groupie, I must declare: I love law professors. I love their big brains, their big ideas, and their big paychecks. This is why Above the Law treats certain law professors like bona fide celebrities.

But nobody’s perfect, and that includes legal academics. For example, law professors have an unfortunate tendency to overcomplicate matters.

Take divorce. Two formerly married law professors have been involved in a knock-down, drag-out legal fight that judges have called “frightening” and “appalling.” Who are the profs, and what are they fighting over?

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What Mr. [Richard] Trenk did was so egregiously sloppy that I’m told his name is entering the legal lexicon: “To Trenk” means “to show a lackadaisical attitude toward the law, with catastrophic results for the client.” A usage example might be: “We were doing great until the lawyer missed the filing deadline and Trenked the whole case.”

Jake Freivald, owner of the domain name westorange.info, in public comments made during last night’s West Orange Township Council meeting. Freivald received a cease-and-desist letter from Trenk, and Freivald’s lawyer, Stephen Kaplitt, responded with a snarky letter that went viral globally.

(What else happened at the meeting? I attended, and it was a hot mess, jam-packed with shouting and even tears. Read on to get the juicy details….)

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General Spoiler Alert: You may not want to read this column if you have not yet finished reading “A Storm of Swords” (affiliate link) or finished watching season three of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Care has been taken to eliminate any spoilers, but by definition spoilers are personal, and I don’t want to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of the books or show.

Imagine a conference room. Filled with lawyers, in this case an Am Law 100 law firm’s D.C.-based bankruptcy practice. Fifteen lawyers in total. Four partners, two senior counsel, and nine associates of various experience levels. All came to the firm four years ago, when the then-nascent mega-firm picked up an entire D.C.-centric firm in a merger. The bankruptcy guys decided to go with the new outfit, choosing to remain with old colleagues and hoping for some exposure to the new mega-firm’s promised synergies. Business has been okay, even as the current year has been a little soft. In their minds, it also would have been nice to have more fellow bankruptcy practitioners in other offices, but despite their relative isolation (in geography and practice area), the group has managed to pick up a big matter or two via referral from other groups. Things are plodding along.

The head of the practice is about to turn the reins of the meeting over to one of the associates — who will be summarizing some recent case law out of Delaware. It is a spring Tuesday, and everyone is eating, drinking, or doing the smartphone stare. All of a sudden, the door swings open. In marches the office managing partner, flanked by the office manager/HR liason, and one of the D.C.-based members of the executive committee — who closes the door and locks it….

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As both trial lawyers and journalists well know, there are (easily more than) two sides to every story. The same underlying events can give rise to completely different narratives, depending on whom you talk to.

Is a mother who takes her own life and almost takes that of her child deserving of condemnation or sympathy? Are two law students accused of killing a bird a pair of “sick individuals,” or two basically good guys who just had a bad night?

Yesterday we wrote about Weil Gotshal’s reaction to losing two litigation partners to Quinn Emanuel in D.C. Since our story was published, we’ve heard from multiple sources who vigorously dispute our prior tipsters’ version of events….

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Two litigation partners in the Washington office of Weil Gotshal, Michael Lyle and Eric Lyttle, have left Weil to join the D.C. office of Quinn Emanuel. Lyle, a successful trial lawyer who also worked in the White House during the Clinton Administration, was particularly prominent at Weil Gotshal: he served as managing partner of the D.C. office and was a member of the firm’s management committee.

Quinn Emanuel has been on a lateral hiring tear, so it’s not exactly shocking when they lure stars away from other firms. And QE’s Washington office has been particularly active on the hiring front. Just last month, for example, they hired a longtime federal prosecutor, Sam Sheldon, deputy chief of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, out of the Justice Department.

So here’s what is especially interesting about the Lyle and Lyttle departures: how Weil reacted to the news. Let’s just say Weil didn’t take it sitting down….

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