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March 29, 2011 2:35 PM

Baker & Hostetler Brings On 17 Former Howrey Litigators

Posted by Brian Baxter

Robert Abrams, the former cochair of Howrey's global litigation practice, is joining Baker & Hostetler with 16 colleagues, including the cochairs of the defunct firm's commercial trial and environmental, product, and tort practice groups.

Baker & Hostetler commercial litigation partner John Touhy in Chicago reached out to Abrams and his team in mid-February about possibly joining the firm, says national executive partner R. Steven Kestner.

Touhy, who joined Baker & Hostetler in July 2010 from Mayer Brown, has known Abrams through their common client representation of machinery and engine manufacturer Caterpillar Inc. While he knows Touhy well, Abrams says his team was diligent in examining all available options after Howrey dissolved earlier this month.

"We made a very deliberate review of law firms and talked with people before we made an ultimate decision," Abrams, a 38-year Howrey veteran, says. "And there was no one that I talked to that didn't have extremely positive things to say about Baker & Hostetler."

As previously reported by The Am Law Daily, Abrams and his team were not involved in Howrey's unsuccessful negotiations with Winston & Strawn. Howrey represented 4,000 dairy farm plaintiffs pursuing an antitrust case against the milk industry. Abrams's group would have been conflicted out of a proposed merger with Winston because of Winston's role as counsel for an industry trade group named as a defendant in that case.

Abrams and his team, mostly based in Washington, D.C., thus sought other options as the 55-year-old firm prepared to close. While he declined to name other suitors, Abrams does say that all were "seriously interested in pursuing us." The milk case, he adds, would follow his team to a new firm.

Baker & Hostetler was attracted to the "close-knit" nature of Abrams's team, Kestner says. Most of the lawyers practiced together at Howrey for their entire careers. The group specializes in antitrust and environmental law cases, but Abrams says they consider themselves trial lawyers who also handle commercial, patent, and class action cases.

"We have a considerable amount of litigation, and we will be bringing it with us to Baker & Hostetler," says Abrams, confirming that the milk case, which goes to trial on June 21, would be one of those matters. Abrams declined to comment on any contingency fee arrangement between Baker & Hostetler and Howrey in the event of a successful verdict or settlement by dairy farm plaintiffs.

"Baker was receptive to the milk case and there are, of course, issues in taking any case like that to a firm as it's serious, substantial litigation," Abrams says. "You need a firm that will be committed to it, and Baker is certainly one committed to pursuing that case."

The group of lawyers joining Baker & Hostetler have worked on both the milk industry antitrust litigation and a variety of other cases in their time together at Howrey. The team includes former commercial trial group cochair Gregory Commins, Jr., ex-environmental and tort cochair Gilbert Keteltas, and partners Robert Brookhiser, Gregory Baker, and Elizabeth McCallum, and Terry Sullivan in D.C.

Joining Baker & Hostetler as counsel in D.C. are John Bruce, William DeVinney, Danyll Foix, and Monica Lateef, as well as associates Carey Busen, Evan Mannering, Bridget Merritt, and Jocelyn Roy. Joining the firm in Los Angeles are partners Joanne Caruso and Joanne Lichtman.

Abrams says he relied on the advice of law firm consultant Peter Zeughauser in connection with finding a new home for his team.

According to the latest Am Law 100 financial data, Baker & Hostetler's gross revenue rose 17 percent to $386 million in 2010, while profits per partner increased 27 percent to $763,000. The firm reaped the benefits from its work representing Irving Picard, a Baker & Hostetler partner serving as trustee for the liquidation of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities. (Click here for a breakdown on the firm's fees in that matter.)

Other former Howrey lawyers continue to find new homes.

On Monday, Reed Smith announced that it hired former Howrey IP litigation partner Robert Phillips in San Francisco. The American Lawyer's Howrey Scorecard has the complete rundown on the whereabouts of the firm's ex-partners.

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You have provided a steady stream of articles about where Howrey attorneys are moving.
How about an article discussing how all of their vendors have been teated throughout this spectacle.
Do failing law firms feel any sense of responsibility to their vendors?

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