Law Firms

As Top Leaders Join Winston & Strawn and O'Melveny, the Collapse of Dewey & LeBoeuf Appears Imminent

Two of the four remaining members of the new management committee at Dewey & LeBoeuf are leaving to join other major law firms.

Litigation chief Jeffrey Kessler is to start next week at Winston & Strawn, where chairman Dan Webb says the firm has hired about 60 Dewey refugees including 24 litigation partners. Meanwhile, Richard Shutran, who co-chairs the corporate department at Dewey, is joining O’Melveny & Myers with four other partners from his soon-to-be-former law firm, according to Bloomberg and Reuters.

At least 27 partners headed for the exits of the struggling law firm on Wednesday, reports the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.).

Saying that the firm is “on the brink of collapse,” the DealBook blog of the New York Times reports that the four partners in Shutran’s group are Mark Caterini, Junaid H. Chida, Arthur V. Hazlitt and Dev R. Sen.

Relying on unidentified sources, Dealbook also said that Seth Farber and Harvey Kurzweil are among the partners expected to leave with Kessler. Farber and Kurzweil had been assigned to conduct an internal investigation at Dewey of the fifth former management committee member, ousted onetime firm chairman Steven H. Davis.

Kessler heads a sports litigation group that is the best in the U.S., Webb told Bloomberg. He said most of the new Dewey hires are joining his firm’s New York office.

Five other Dewey partners are leaving to join Bracewell & Giuliani, the Houston Business Journal reports.

They are: John Klauberg, who will head his new firm’s power and utilities practice; Frederick Lark; Catherine McCarthy; David Poe; and Charles Vandenburgh.

The latest departures announced in recent days puts the total number of partners who are exiting the firm in 2012 at more than half of the 300 or so on Dewey’s roster at the end of last year, according to Reuters.

Among those whose exits have been announced within the past 10 days are several “linchpin” partners previously identified by Reuters as critical to Dewey’s future as a viable law firm.

In addition to Kessler, they include Morton A. Pierce, a top mergers and acquisitions practitioner, and Berge Setrakian, an international business partner who is headed to DLA Piper with at least nine other Dewey partners.

Linchpin partners Bruce Bennett, Martin Bienenstock, Ralph Ferrara and Michael Fitzgerald are still active on Dewey’s website, however.

Earlier coverage: “From ‘Drip Torture’ to Closure: Dewey Begins Laying Off Associates, Gives 1 Week Notice, WSJ Reports” “Ex-Dewey Vice Chair Says Firm Owes Him $61M; Secretaries Told of Layoffs; Departures Pick Up”

Updated at 5:13 p.m. to include Wall Street Journal coverage.

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