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April 4, 2012 3:28 PM

As Six More Partners Depart, Dewey Insists It's Getting Smaller By Design

Posted by Sara Randazzo

UPDATE, 4/4/12, 5:00 p.m. EDT: Comments from departing Dewey partners John Nonna and James Woods and Patton Boggs managing partner Edward Newberry have been added to the eighth, ninth and tenth paragraphs below.

The raids on Dewey & LeBoeuf continued Wednesday, with six more partners either leaving or signaling plans to leave the embattled firm's insurance, intellectual property, and bankruptcy practices.

The losses include a New York–based group of three partners and one counsel led by John Nonna headed  to Patton Boggs, and bankruptcy partner Peter Ivanick, who is jumping to Hogan Lovells. Washington, D.C., intellectual property partner Lawrence Sung, meanwhile, is joining Baker & Hostetler. And James Woods, cochair of Dewey's global insurance industry sector practice, is now at Mayer Brown, where he will split his time between the firm's Palo Alto and New York.

All told, the firm has lost 47 partners since January amid scrutiny of its fiscal condition and compensation practices. The latest departures—which follow by a day the defection of two corporate partners in New York to DLA Piper—came as the remaining Dewey partners voted in favor of a new five-headed "office of the chairman," a firm spokesman confirmed Wednesday. Effective immediately, the firm's leadership will be shared by Steven Davis, who was recently deposed as sole chairman, and practice group chairs Jeffrey Kessler, Martin Bienenstock, L. Charles Landgraf, and Richard Shutran.

In a statement, Dewey played down the additional losses, insisting that they "will not have a negative economic impact on the firm" and that: "We have said for weeks now that there would be additional departures both at the firm's insistence and from professionals who didn't feel they fit in with the new structure of the firm."

The statement also said that yet more departures are expected and that the firm's new leadership structure was established with the expectation "that while [Dewey] still would be a major international firm in terms of scope, size, and practice areas, it would be somewhat smaller in terms of the number of professionals."

Joining Nonna at Patton Boggs will be Dewey partners Larry Schiffer and Eridania Perez as well as Dewey counsel Suman Chakraborty. All four will be partners at Patton Boggs starting Monday.

Dewey's insurance group—a hallmark practice of predecessor firm LeBoeuf Lamb, which merged with Dewey Ballantine in 2007—has been particularly hard hit this year, with 12 partners leaving for Willkie Farr & Gallagher, six more going to Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, three others jumping to Drinker Biddle & Reath, and former executive committee member William Marcoux joining DLA Piper.

Nonna said Wednesday that his group "got a sense that the business model [at Dewey] was no longer compatible with our business model for an insurance dispute resolution practice." So he became interested when Patton Boggs, which is making a push in the insurance realm, reached out to him, Nonna says.

Edward Newberry, Patton Boggs's managing partner, says that in looking to expand its insurance group, the firm identified Nonna and his team as "one of the best if not the best insurance dispute resolution practices in the country," and that Dewey's current problems were not a driving factor in the recruitment.

In an interview Wednesday with sibling publication The Recorder, Woods contrasted Mayer Brown, which he called "an extremely well-managed organization," to Dewey, where his pay has been deferred for the past several years. "They have apparently no problems paying partners in a timely fashion and valuing partners and practices very highly," he says of his new firm, adding that he wants Dewey "to thrive and do fabulously well."

Read our past coverage of Dewey losses here, here, here, and here.

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