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October 5, 2011 1:48 PM

Is Dechert Striking Back at DLA Over Stalled Litigation Hire?

Posted by Brian Baxter

UPDATE: 10/6/11, 4:00 p.m., EDT. A source familiar with the matter told sibling publication The Legal Intelligencer that the writ filed by Dechert is related to its dispute with DLA Piper over Neil Gerrard's hire.

A week after DLA Piper boosted its London litigation practice by hiring three partners from a British firm, the world's largest law firm finds itself on the receiving end of a suit that may well be tied to former global litigation cohead Neil Gerrard's delayed departure for Dechert

Dechert filed a one-page writ of summons in Philadelphia's Court of Common Pleas on Monday night against DLA's U.S. and U.K. operations, according to this report by our eagle-eyed former colleague Alison Frankel of Thomson Reuters.

As of Wednesday, a complaint had yet to be filed along with the writ of summons. While the writ offers no details about Dechert's grievance with DLA, Frankel notes that the underlying dispute has already been laid bare by months of wrangling between both firms over the fate of Gerrard, who is still listed as a partner on the DLA Piper Web site (though not as the firm's global cohead of litigation and regulation).

Gerrard and Jonathan Pickworth, a former head of corporate crime and investigations for DLA's European, Middle East, and African offices, announced in March they were headed to Dechert. DLA subsequently launched arbitration proceedings against Gerrard over whether he should have served "gardening leave"—a common practice among U.K. firms where departing partners take a period of paid leave—before he was due to begin working at Dechert on April 23.

Last week Gerrard brought on Herbert Smith to represent him in the arbitration, according to U.K. publication Legal Week, which notes that several other British firms have grabbed roles in the growing dispute. Joining Herbert Smith in advising Gerrard, for instance, is Mark Howard of London's Brick Court Chambers. Howard did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Dechert's move against DLA in the United States.

Stephenson Harwood head of commercial litigation John Fordham is advising DLA in the U.K. arbitration. Fordham was unaware of the litigation filed against his client by Dechert in Philadelphia—where Dechert is headquartered—when reached Wednesday by The Am Law Daily.

A spokesman for DLA declined to comment on Dechert's suit, as did a Dechert spokeswoman. William Hangley, a name partner at Philadelphia-based Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller who is representing Dechert, also declined to comment on the matter.

Gerrard—possibly the only partner at an Am Law 200 firm with active bios on two Web sites—did not respond to requests for comment left for him at DLA and Dechert by the time of this story.

DLA, which has more than 4,200 lawyers and is the world's largest law firm, has been on a lateral hiring binge this year, according to our previous reports. Gerrard is apparently one attorney the firm feels strongly about replacing.

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