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March 29, 2012 5:28 PM

Dewey Antitrust Partner Heads to Arent Fox as 2012 Partner Losses Near 40

Posted by Sara Randazzo

Dewey & LeBoeuf has lost another partner to a competitor, as New York antitrust litigator Eamon O'Kelly joined Arent Fox as a partner on Wednesday. O'Kelly's departure brings the number of partners to lateral out of Dewey so far this year to 38.

O'Kelly's move was confirmed to The Am Law Daily by Michael Blass, the head of Arent Fox's New York office.

Blass says O'Kelly first approached Arent Fox a year ago, but was not immediately ready to switch firms. Talks between the litigator and the firm picked up again recently, and this time around, Blass says, O'Kelly was ready to jump.

"He has a strong antitrust litigation background . . . and also brings a good deal of client work in the health care space, which complements well with our existing health care practice," Blass says, adding that on his first day at Arent Fox, O'Kelly was already being asked to help with a health care matter the firm is handling out of its Washington, D.C., office.

At Dewey, which, according to his LinkedIn profile, he joined in 1997, O'Kelly coordinated the firm's antitrust practice in New York, according to a cached version of his firm Web site bio. He also worked on sports-related litigation matters, including defending the New York Racing Association against challenges brought by professional jockey agents to the organization's rule governing jockey representation, and representing the National Football League Players Association and NFL Players Inc. in a case involving the commercial licensing of retired football players' intellectual property rights, according to the Dewey bio.

O'Kelly was attending the American Bar Association's antitrust conference on Thursday and not immediately available for comment, according to Blass, who also said that as of right now, O'Kelly is joining Arent Fox by himself.

Dewey spokesman Angelo Kakolyris said the firm had no comment on O'Kelly's departure.

O'Kelly's defection is the latest in a wave of lateral losses Dewey has endured since the start of the year—including the departure of six insurance partners to Sutherland Asbill & Brennan in New York and Chicago and 12 insurance partners bolting for Willkie Farr & Gallagher—amid questions about its fiscal condition. The firm, which has promised guarantees to some lateral hires, while asking other partners to accept deferred compensation, is set to renegotiate a $100 million line of credit extended by a group of lenders and facing the prospect of starting next year to repay $125 million in bonds it sold in 2010.

In an effort counter a stream of negative publicity and reassure the partners who remain, Dewey leaders this week proposed a new management structure that, pending a partnership vote, would install an "office of the chairman." The change would strip current chairman Steven Davis of his title as the firm's sole chairman, instead surrounding him with four other top partners in a five-pronged leadership team.

Others poised to join the office of the chairman are: Jeffrey Kessler, head of the firm's global litigation group; Martin Bienenstock, chairman of the firm's business solutions and governance department and chair of the firm's consumer financial services group; L. Charles Landgraf, chairman of the legislative and public policy practice group and managing partner of the Washington, D.C., office; and Richard Shutran, chairman of the corporate department and global finance practice group.

Kessler told The Am Law Daily earlier this week that Dewey has no problems with regard to its debt. "I will say we don't feel we have any problem with the banks," he said. "It's a routine renewal of a line of credit."

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