The Talent

October 27, 2011 4:21 PM

In-House Bound: Up to 20 Lawyers Leaving Willkie for Bloomberg L.P.

Posted by Brian Baxter

Five partners and up to 15 associates and counsel are leaving Willkie Farr & Gallagher effective January 1 to take in-house jobs with one of the firm's largest clients, Bloomberg L.P., the company announced Thursday. In the process, Bloomberg L.P. is getting a new chief legal officer: Willkie corporate partner Richard DeScherer, a longtime confidant of company founder Michael Bloomberg.

Other Willkie attorneys accompanying DeScherer to Bloomberg include corporate partners and information systems and technology cochairs Dan Grossman and Carol Mascera, as well as corporate partners David Levine and Sarah Osborn. Willkie cochairman Steven Gartner says that the specific number of associates and counsel joining Bloomberg will be decided over the next few weeks.

The company's relationship with Willkie, and with DeScherer in particular, stretches back some 30 years to former CEO—and current New York City mayor—Michael Bloomberg's founding of the financial news and information services provider, according to a 2003 story by sibling publication Corporate Counsel. Since then, Bloomberg—now one of New York's fastest-growing companies—has become one of Willkie's largest clients.

In August, Willkie advised Bloomberg on its largest acquisition to date, the $990 million purchase of legal information provider The Bureau of National Affairs (BNA). That same month, Willkie litigation partner Thomas Golden successfully represented Bloomberg when it won the dismissal of a high-profile pregnancy discrimination case filed against the company four years earlier.

In a statement, Bloomberg CEO Daniel Doctoroff, himself a lawyer, said the new legal staff will help the company with the accelerating pace of new acquisitions, agreements, partnerships, and vendor contracts worldwide.

"As a growing company operating in almost 200 locations around the world, we are finding unprecedented opportunities for growth in our customer base, our product offerings, and our local partners," Doctoroff said. "Bloomberg will benefit greatly from a ramp-up of both the number and range of expertise of in-house legal staff to ensure we are much more efficient and nimble as we seek to take advantage of these global opportunities."

A company spokesman says the new Willkie hires join an in-house legal team that already comprises about 35 attorneys.

The spokesman confirmed that current general counsel Karl Kilb III will remain with the company in a new role with the Bloomberg Vertical Industries Group, which includes the company's Bloomberg Law, Bloomberg Government, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and BNA units. According to an internal company memo obtained by The Am Law Daily, Kilb "will focus on managing a common application of Bloomberg business policies and best practices across the Vertical Industries Group."

Gartner, who was elected cochairman of Willkie in January 2010, says the personnel transfer represents  another step in strengthening ties between the firm and a key client.

"This is great news for Bloomberg and Willkie Farr, and it helps solidify a long-term relationship," Gartner says. "We've worked with [Bloomberg] for more than 25 years and they've worked with many of these partners for a good chunk of that, including Dick [DeScherer] and Dan [Grossman] for all of that time."

While the 67-year-old DeScherer, who heads Willkie's IT and technology group and sits on Bloomberg's board of directors, is two years past the firm's mandatory retirement age of 65, Gartner says DeScherer was granted an exemption from the policy thanks to his close ties to Bloomberg.

"Dick was a treasured partner here and we were pleased to have him stay as long as he wanted," Gartner adds. "He managed the Bloomberg relationship for 25 years and he was one of two partners given an exemption to our mandatory retirement age, along with [Willkie senior partner] Jack Nusbaum."

DeScherer did not respond to a request for comment. In 2003 he shared with sibling publication Corporate Counsel his first impressions on meeting Michael Bloomberg in 1981, after the former Salomon Brothers partner had left banking to start his own media company. "I remember thinking he was extremely bright and had lots of good ideas," DeScherer told Corporate Counsel. "I hoped very much he would decide to hire us."

Michael Bloomberg continues to own 88 percent of Bloomberg L.P., a share he bolstered in 2008 when the company bought back a 20 percent stake held by Merrill Lynch for $4.4 billion. Willkie advised Bloomberg L.P. on that transaction, according to our previous reports.

Gartner says that Golden—a litigator in New York who has secured several key court victories for the company, including a Freedom of Information Act win against the Federal Reserve System two years ago—will now serve as the relationship partner at Willkie in charge of the Bloomberg account. (The Am Law Daily reported Wednesday on a recent pro bono victory that Golden shared with Willkie litigation associate Jeanna Composti.)

Willkie corporate partner Maurice Lefkort, who has handled several major transactions for Bloomberg, including its acquisition of BusinessWeek magazine two years ago from The McGraw-Hill Companies, declined to comment on departures. Asked jokingly whether he would decline a similar request from a Bloomberg reporter, Lefkort offers a witty retort. "I'll tell you what, if you get American Lawyer to give us as much money as Bloomberg does, you'll get the Bloomberg response," he says with a laugh.

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