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March 16, 2011 2:47 PM

Baker Botts Picks Up 32-Lawyer Howrey Antitrust Group

Posted by Brian Baxter

Baker Botts announced on Wednesday that it has hired a team of 32 antitrust lawyers from Howrey to be based in the firm's Washington, D.C., office. Nine partners, including former Howrey vice-chair Sean Boland and two former assistant U.S. attorneys general, are joining the firm.

Boland, who cochaired Howrey's antitrust practice and led negotiations on an unrealized merger with Winston & Strawn, will serve as cohead of Baker Botts's revamped antitrust group. Moving with him are former Howrey antitrust partners James Rill, John Taladay, Wm. Bradford Reynolds, William Henry, Joseph Ostoyich, James Kress, Stephen Weissman, Paul Cuomo, Thomas Fina, and Christopher MacAvoy.

All will join Baker Botts as partners except for Reynolds, 68, a former assistant U.S. attorney general, and Rill, 78, who served as an assistant U.S. attorney general of the Justice Department's antitrust division and once chaired the American Bar Association's antitrust section. Both will be senior counsel at the firm.

SeanBoland Rill and Boland, pictured right, were part of a team that joined Howrey in April 2000 from former D.C. antitrust firm Collier Shannon Rill & Scott. That firm later merged with Kelley Drye & Warren in May 2006. Henry, Weissman, Cuomo, Fina, and MacAvoy also are Collier Shannon alums who had worked closely with legacy Howrey lawyers, including Ostoyich and Kress.

Boland's team currently represents Caterpillar on antitrust issues related to the company's $7.6 billion acquisition of mining equipment manufacturer Bucyrus International. Boland and Cuomo recently advised Smith International on its $11 billion combination with Schlumberger. Boland and Fina also represented Baker Hughes on its $5.5 billion reacquisition of BJ Services in August 2009.

The close-knit unit wanted to continue practicing together, Boland says, which was one reason why the proposed deal with Winston didn't come through.

"We had major conflicts that we couldn't get around," Boland says. "[Winston] is a huge litigation firm and sometimes litigation is a brutal business and it's hard to clear conflicts. It would have shredded our antitrust group, and I wasn't going to break bonds with people that I've worked with for 27 years."

If the team couldn't join as a group, a deal with Winston wouldn't have made sense, Boland says, adding that both sides "tried really hard" to make it work. Once he realized the Winston deal wasn't going to happen, Boland began talking to other firms who'd made overtures to him and were eager to get a piece of Howrey's antitrust action.

"Howrey has always been known as an antitrust firm primarily, and it had a great brand and wonderful tradition in that area," Boland says. "Many [Am Law 100] firms contacted us at one point or another."

Boland declined to name the other interested firms, but he says he spoke with several about keeping the core of his team intact. His group specializes in merger, cartel, and class action antitrust work. Baker Botts called first, Boland says, and the firm was patient enough to give the group time to work through all options.

Baker Botts's strengths--a strong corporate practice with limited conflicts, rather than just litigation--were a draw, as was the firm's reach domestically and globally. "They have a very strong corporate department, and we've always had to go out and get our own clients," says Boland, noting the firm's presence in "extraction industries" like mining, natural resources, and energy. Boland also cites Baker Botts's IP practice in Palo Alto and media work done out of New York as being strong points for the firm.

The Howrey antitrust hires also have a commitment from Baker Botts to expand into Brussels in the near future, Boland says. "We're not bringing anyone from Brussels with us, but we hope to rebuild our office there with a Baker Botts logo on it," he says. "We're going to be announcing something relatively soon in that area with some of our former partners once we get certain clearances."

Baker Botts managing partner Walter Smith and D.C. office managing partner James "Jamie" Baker IV led the negotiations with Boland and Taladay, who will cochair the antitrust group at the firm. Boland says they did not use the services of a legal recruiter.

Such a sizable lateral group is unusual for Houston-based Baker Botts. The firm, founded in 1840 by the great grandfather of former secretary of state James Baker III, has hired big blocks of lawyers only three times in its history. Baker Botts took 12 lawyers from now-defunct Dallas IP boutique Baker, Mills & Glast in 1990, adding 45 more IP lawyers seven years later through a merger with New York-based Brumbaugh, Graves, Donohue & Raymond. The firm's last big lateral push was in 2000 with the acquisition of 30-lawyer D.C. litigation shop Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin, which, according to this story by The American Lawyer's Tony Mauro, was met with mixed success.

 

In other Howrey moves news...

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman announced on Wednesday its hire of a four-member IP litigation team in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley led by ex-Howrey partner Bobby Ghajar, while Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati announced that it had brought on David Stewart as a partner at the firm. Stewart, who specializes in antitrust and IP litigation, will divide his time between Wilson Sonsini's Seattle and Palo Alto offices.

Haynes and Boone also announced on Wednesday that it had hired ex-Howrey litigation partner Richard Ripley for its specialized litigation section in Washington. And Dickstein Shapiro issued a statement touting the hires of former Howrey insurance recovery cochair Andrew Reidy and insurance litigation partner Catherine Serafin in D.C., while ex-partner Michael McGaughey is joining as of counsel in L.A.

As noted by The Blog of Legal Times, a sibling publication, little ceremony accompanied Howrey's official end on Tuesday.

 

 

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