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New Bankruptcy Dept for Cravath

Posted Aug 2, 2007 4:35 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Signaling a sea change in the way that one of New York City's most prestigious, upper-echelon law firms runs its practice, Richard Levin has now been working as a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore for a month.

Levin not only represents a very rare exception to Cravath's ordinary policy of hiring its lawyers as newly minted law school graduates, but he is also the first bankruptcy attorney to work there in the firm's nearly 200-year history, reports the International Herald Tribune. The firm's new restructuring practice will otherwise be made up of existing Cravath attorneys, the paper notes.

Cravath's poaching of Levin from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, where he had been a partner for a decade, was noted by ABAJournal.com in May. And it's far from the only such major-firm partner theft—other big-name firms are luring away competitors' bankruptcy partners, too, in anticipation of what one lawyer refers to as a possible "tsunami" of incoming bankruptcy work in the foreseeable future, the Tribune points out.

However, Levin's move to Cravath sounds the death knell for the now-quaint traditional view that bankruptcy is a low-rent practice area not suitable for those who want to be perceived as being among the upper crust of American law firms, according to Ann Israel, who heads a New York City legal recruiting firm. "This is a big, serious practice now," she says. "This isn't an embarrassment any longer."

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