Business of Law

Many lawyer departures prior to Dickstein's demise were planned, former chairman says

Dickstein Shapiro

Contrary to what one might believe from reading media reports, a steady stream of departures from Dickstein Shapiro in recent months was not lawyers leaving a sinking ship but part of a planned strategy, the former chairman of the now-defunct firm says.

“Since July, with very few exceptions, all of our partner departures, not withstanding what one might take from the press articles, were programmed,” James Kelly told Bloomberg BNA’s Big Law Business blog.

“They were not going to be part of a Bryan Cave deal and they were not going to be part of a Blank Rome deal,” Kelly said. He was referring, respectively, to an almost-completed merger with Bryan Cave and the recent acquisition by Blank Rome of most of the remaining Dickstein lawyers, including Kelly himself.

However, all the lawyers who remained at the firm at the end were offered a place at Blank Rome, along with most of Dickstein’s staff, he said. Kelly was taken on by Blank Rome as chairman of the firm’s Washington, D.C., office.

Following a change in the patent litigation landscape, two contingency cases which could have brought in big bucks to Dickstein fizzled in 2008 and 2010, others familiar with the firm told Big Law Business. One was lost on appeal; the other settled for an undisclosed amount as an appeal was pending.

“The total recovery for the firm would have been well over $100 million” If Dickstein had won the appeals, said former Dickstein partner Steven Weisburd, who went to Arent Fox last year.

Meanwhile, once the lure of the potential “pot of gold” from patent cases was gone, some lawyers were more willing to explore options elsewhere, he told Big Law Business.

In the wake of these cases, the firm curtailed its reliance on contingency patent litigation and reduced its attorney roster. From a high of 400 lawyers in five offices in 2010, the firm had shrunk to a little more than 100 lawyers in two offices by the beginning of 2016.

But once the reduction in the attorney roster contributed to an unduly negative picture of the firm, according to Kelly, that made it hard to recruit top lawyers to join Dickstein and encouraged competitors to poach from the firm’s ranks, the article reports.

Big Law Business didn’t provide any explanation from Kelly of recent news that Dickstein partners won’t get their capital contributions back. Some reportedly are considering litigation.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit was filed Wednesday by the law firm Sullivan & Worcester, which subleased office space in New York to Dickstein. It contends that Dickstein breached the contract, leaving Sullivan & Worcester on the hook for some $8.2 million, Big Law Business says.

Related coverage: “Blank Rome announces Dickstein Shapiro acquisition; over 100 remaining lawyers will make the move” “Dickstein Shapiro partners are informed their capital is gone; some could lose more than $1M”

See also: “Sorry, partner, your capital cash is gone—but where?”

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