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May 19, 2009 10:21 PM

Another Partner Loss for Skadden

Posted by Drew Combs

JanBakerUpdated on 5/20/09 at 2:45 p.m. with a comment from Jan Baker in the seventh paragraph below.

D.J. (Jan) Baker, a New York-based partner in the restructuring group at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, is leaving the firm to join Latham & Watkins, where he will head up that firm's restructuring practice.

The lateral move comes on the heels of two lateral departures from Skadden's M&A practice reported on Friday--partners David Fox and Daniel Wolf have joined Kirkland & Ellis.

But Skadden executive partner Eric Friedman sees no connection between Baker's lateral move and that of Fox and Wolf. When asked whether the three departures allude to any larger issues at Skadden, Friedman simply responds, "none whatsoever."

Friedman framed Baker's move in the context of past departures from the firm's restructuring practice. "We are a bit of an incubator of high-quality restructuring talent," Friedman says. "We have had other restructuring partners leave over the years and go and do other things." He adds, "This is very typical of the industry." (As previously reported here, one of those restructuring moves happened in December, when practice cohead Timothy Pohl announced his departure to join Lazard.)

Friedman also says Baker's departure will have minimal impact on Skadden's restructuring practice, highlighting that the firm has more than 100 restructuring lawyers in New York, Los Angeles, London, and Wilmington. Recently, Skadden has handled restructuring matters involving Circuit City Stores Inc., Hartmarx Corp., and Delphi Corp. "The strength of our practice is something we are very proud of," Friedman says.

Over the course of his career, Baker has handled matters for FoxMeyer Drug Company, Micro Age, Inc. and RCN Corporation. Recently, Baker led Skadden's representation of Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., in a restructuring.

Baker, who turns 65 next year, says Skadden's mandatory retirement plan prompted him to lateral to Latham. "At 65 I would have to go into a retirement process and phase down my practice over the next five years," he says. (Baker commented to The Am Law Daily after this report on his move was first published.) While Baker describes Skadden’s process as an enlightened and compassionate "glide path toward retirement," he didn’t want to do it. "I feel great and love what I do," he says, "so I wanted to stay active on a full time basis for the foreseeable future."

Latham & Watkins spokesman Frank Pizzurro refused to confirm or deny the move. "We don't comment on any move until it becomes official, so at this juncture there is nothing to report," he says.

This move was first reported Tuesday night on The New York Times' Deal Book blog.

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