Law Firms

At Least 12 More Partners Exit Dewey & LeBoeuf for McDermott, Morgan Lewis and Pillsbury Winthrop

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Updated: There is news Friday that at least 12 more partners are exiting from the troubled Dewey & LeBoeuf, which has already lost about one-third of its partners in 2012.

The exiting partners include four hired by McDermott Will & Emery in Germany; two practice leaders headed to Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman from Dewey’s offices in Abu Dhabi and London; and another six that Bloomberg says, relying on an unidentified source, are leaving the Russian and Almaty, Kazakhstan, offices for Morgan Lewis & Bockius.

Meanwhile, Dewey sent out so-called WARN notices to all U.S. employees on Friday, alerting them that the law firm could close at an unspecified future date due to “adverse developments” including “a period of extraordinary difficulties in the last few days.”

The firm’s London office reportedly already has a committee in place to wind down its operations.

McDermott will be opening a new office in Frankfurt, Germany, with four partners from Dewey & LeBoeuf’s office there, a press release states.

It says the corporate finance and securities team is headed by Philipp von Ilberg, who will be in charge of the new Frankfurt office. The other three are Joseph Marx, Dr. Martin Kniehase and Dr. Moritz von Hutten.

“Opening in Frankfurt with such high-caliber lawyers is an important strategic move for the firm and our clients,” said McDermott co-chair Peter J. Sacripanti in the release. “Frankfurt is a key international financial center in one of the strongest economies of the world. It is also our third German office, with Munich and Dusseldorf celebrating their 10-year anniversary in the summer.”

Pillsbury Winthrop also announced in a press release Friday that it is picking up two Dewey leaders, Stephen Jurgenson, who headed his former firm’s office in Abu Dhabi, and James Simpson, the London-based co-chief of Dewey’s project finance and infrastructure practice.

Bloomberg reports that Morgan Lewis will be hiring not only six partners from the Dewey offices in Russia and Almaty, Kazakhstan, but associates and staff.

In response to a request for comment by the ABA Journal, Morgan Lewis said that it is not confirming any information or making any announcements today, but notes that it announced Thursday the acquisition of three partners from the London office of Dewey, including the office’s managing partner.

A Legal Week (sub. req.) article says an additional three corporate, banking and finance partners will soon be joining the earlier trio from Dewey. It lists them as Amy Comer; Amanda Jennings; and Bruce Johnston, who had previously planned to join Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

Legal Week also says six partners are defecting to Morgan Lewis from the Moscow office of Dewey, plus a seventh from the Almaty office.

Analyst Kevin Starke of CRT Capital Group LLC said in a Thursday report on the price of Dewey’s privately placed bonds, which have dropped from late April prices in the 60s to as low as 45 cents on the dollar, that the firm is in an “apparent death spiral,” Bloomberg reports.

A Reuters article blames excessive pay guarantees to partners for the firm’s downfall and says many of the firm’s partners didn’t know that about one third of their colleagues had received such promises until the news was “dropped like a bombshell,” as one unidentified former partner put it, at a meeting in October. As of the end of 2011, the firm had about 300 partners on its roster.

As of Thursday, the firm, which had some 1,300 lawyers in 2007, after the merger that created Dewey & LeBoeuf, had about 700 attorneys listed on its website, the article says.

Dewey & LeBoeuf has lost more than 100 partners so far in 2012.

Additional and related coverage: “Top M&A Partner Exits Dewey & LeBoeuf for White & Case as Tally of 2012 Departed Partners Nears 100” “Recruiting Agencies Will Be at Dewey Today; Partners Relieved to Get $25K Draws”

The Deal: “Dewey & LeBoeuf’s risky business”

Updated at 5:51 p.m. to include information about WARN notice sent to U.S. personnel.

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