May 8, 2012 / 7:23 PM / 6 years ago

More Dewey rainmakers leave for other firms

(Reuters) - More top rainmakers at law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf decamped for new homes on Tuesday, days after the firm warned employees that it may go out of business.

People walk past a sign outside law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf in New York City May 1, 2012. REUTERS/Lee Celano

Dewey, once one of the biggest U.S. law firms, has lost roughly 150 of its 300 partners since the start of the year. The departures came amid a debt crisis, concerns about partner compensation and a criminal probe into former Dewey Chairman Steven Davis.

The latest departures included five partners led by Richard Climan, a prominent mergers and acquisitions partner in Silicon Valley. Weil, Gotshal & Manges said it had hired Climan’s team.

Ten partners from Dewey joined DLA Piper, including New York dealmaker Berge Setrakian, and Joseph Tato, the chair of Dewey’s global project finance and infrastructure finance group. DLA Piper said it also is hiring Joseph Lavelle, a patent litigator in Washington.

Two real estate partners, Gordon Davis and Suzanne St. Pierre, left Dewey for Venable. Venable will also add Peter Britell, a former chair of Dewey’s global real estate and construction practice, as a partner.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld said it had hired three energy partners from Dewey’s London and Houston offices, including John LaMaster, chair of Dewey’s global oil and gas industry sector group.

Another five energy partners will separately join Bracewell & Giuliani. They include John Klauberg, the co-head of Dewey’s utilities, power and pipelines global industry sector group, and Catherine McCarthy, who co-headed Dewey’s energy regulatory department.

Last week, Dewey & LeBoeuf’s management sent a memo to partners encouraging them to find other jobs and, on Friday, the firm warned employees that it may close.

Partners have since told some secretaries their last day will be this Friday, a person close to the matter said Tuesday. Some associates have meanwhile been told their last day will be the end of next week, this person said. It was not clear how many people will lose their jobs.

The troubles at Dewey have spurred an investigation by Manhattan’s district attorney, who the firm has said is probing allegations of wrongdoing by its former chairman, Davis. He has denied the charges.

Other partners who announced moves on Tuesday included Jonathan DeSantis, a capital markets partner who joined Shearman & Sterling; James Carter, an international arbitration lawyer who joined Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr as special counsel; and Simon Briggs, who joined Dechert’s corporate and securities practice in London.

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius separately confirmed previous reports that it would hire 10 partners from Dewey’s London, Moscow and Almaty offices.

The moves are coups for the various firms that hired the lawyers from Dewey. Setrakian and Tato’s groups alone are expected to generate $40 million to $50 million in business a year for DLA Piper, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Climan is well-known in M&A circles. He advised Illumina in defending against Roche’s $6 billion hostile takeover bid earlier this year. He also regularly counsels Dell in deals, including the $1 billion acquisition of Compellent Technologies, announced in December 2010.

Weil Gotshal beat other several other firms in hiring Climan’s group. Other firms that had talks with Climan included Freshfields and Kirkland & Ellis, according to a person close to the discussions.

How much the partners will be paid at their new firms is unclear. Climan earned a guaranteed $3.5 million a year after joining Dewey in 2009 from Cooley, where he was firm-wide head of its mergers practice, according to the Recorder, a California legal publication. Setrakian meanwhile had for at least a time earned $3 million after joining Dewey predecessor firm LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae from Winston & Strawn in 2005, the American Lawyer reported at the time.

Climan declined to discuss his pay. Setrakian was not available to comment.

Former partners have cited Dewey’s practice of awarding guaranteed pay to some partners but not others as a reason behind the firm’s troubles. More than 100 of the firm’s 300 partners had guarantees, a number that wasn’t known until an October meeting, according to two former partners. Partners who did not have guaranteed pay deals meanwhile saw their compensation shrink during the recession.

Roger Meltzer, the chair of DLA Piper’s corporate and finance practice, declined to discuss how much his firm was paying partners it recruited from Dewey.

“On a general basis, it’s a fair economic transaction for them and us,” he said.

Duncan Miller, a spokesman for Dewey, declined to comment on the departures.

Reporting by Nate Raymond; Additional reporting by Andrew Longstreth; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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