Firms Snap Up Partners from Hot Heller Practices; Associates Struggle
Posted Oct 15, 2008 5:17 PM CDT
By Rachel M. Zahorsky
While many Heller Ehrman partners have found safe havens in other BigLaw firms, often bringing their substantial client bases with them, intellectual property litigators and insurance recovery groups appear to be among the most popular lawyers at the party.
"It certainly helps to be in a robust practice area if you want to move laterally," said Heller’s former Los Angeles managing partner Nancy Sher Cohen. "Firms are looking to keep their folks busy, and it therefore helps to work in a practice area that is robust." Cohen, now a partner at Proskauer Rose, said the strength of insurance recovery practice made it easy for her to identify five or six firms expanding their practices. Cohen brought along a partner and an associate when she left.
Some of her Heller colleagues, however, have had a harder time moving on because they aren't affiliated with a practice area or group of lawyers who were taken in by a big firm, she said.
Perkins Coie, which acquired most of Heller’s Madison, Wis., office, scooped up 13 intellectual property litigators, including four partners and nine associates. The Heller dissolution came at an opportune time, as the firm needed to quickly expand its IP practice.
"We are always looking but don’t always have opportunities like this," said Karen Andersen, Perkins Coie’s chief lateral recruitment officer.
The vigor of the current IP climate also benefited patent litigator Allen Blankenheimer, who left Heller to launch Covington & Burling’s San Diego office less than two weeks ago. Blankenheimer said there were "quite a lot of places" that he could have considered, noting "folks are not shy about approaching practices that are healthy."
In the end, Blankenheimer and 13 other Heller partners chose to keep their practice group intact, bringing nearly 30 associates with them. The partners were unable to discuss the Covington negotiations with Heller associates until after a final decision was made. However, "Covington knew that given the health of our practice, we would need associate support," Blankenheimer said. "It was clear to everyone that it would come from Heller."
Not all Heller associates have been so lucky.
Orange County-based legal recruiter Krista Kamper at Major Lindsey & Africa said in an e-mail that Heller associates are facing the same employment prospects as other unemployed associates in the market.
"There is no advantage or disadvantage to being a Heller associate," Kamper said. "While a few associates (including litigation, corporate, and real estate) have landed new jobs ... most associates are still actively pursuing new positions."
So where have the rest of the 650 Heller lawyers gone? Here's the current roundup. (Please contact the author or drop in a comment if you have more information about where Heller lawyers and staff are landing.)
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe hired 27 Heller partners and one senior counsel, including 13 who focus on antitrust, five insurance recovery practitioners and four intellectual property lawyers.
Goodwin Procter hired three partner shareholders from Heller’s venture capital law group, and one from labor and employment, as well as Heller’s former chairman, who focuses on companies in the technology and health care sectors.
Five litigation partners, including several former litigation practice heads joined Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.
Hogan & Hartson is opening two new offices in Northern California with eight veterans, including Heller's former litigation practice chair and securities litigation co-chairs. Seven will join as partners, one as counsel. Hogan also is adding two Heller partners to its New York office, including the former head of Heller's labor and employment practice.
Jones Day is now the home of 15 former Heller insurance recovery partner shareholders, as well as one real estate transactional partner.
Schiff Hardin’s Private Clients, Trusts and Estates practice in San Francisco added two Heller lawyers, a shareholder and counsel, both as counsel.
Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton hired 10 Heller partner shareholders, most recently adding four litigators to the firm’s business trial and tax practices.
Cooley Godward Kronish snagged 15 Heller partners, 16 associates and two special counsel from the firm’s venture law, firm-wide business, intellectual property, energy and clean technology and life sciences practices. Ten partners will join Cooley in Silicon Valley, four in Seattle, where Cooley will open an office, and one in Washington, D.C.
Davis Wright Tremaine hired 14 former Heller partners, four associates and two of counsel in the firm's Seattle and San Francisco offices.
One former Heller partner joined Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker's antitrust and corporate practices.
Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps announced two former Heller partners joined the firm's San Francisco office where they will focus on real estate and corporate practices.
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati added two former Heller partners to the firm's tax practice. One partner will be based in Palo Alto, Calif. and the other will be in the firm's New York office.
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher hired Heller's former firmwide managing partner, Robert Hubbell, as a partner in the firm's Los Angeles office.
Ten former Heller attorneys, including five associates, and one patent specialist joined Foley & Lardner's litigation and intellectual property departments in the firm's San Diego and Del Mar offices.
Sidley Austin announced that six litigation partners and a number of counsel and associates from Heller joined the law firm. Four partners will reside in Sidley's San Francisco office, one will join the Washington, D.C. office and one will be resident in Asia.
Updated at 1:41 p.m. Oct. 28.