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April 17, 2012 11:27 AM

Dewey Losses Accelerate; Eight More New York Partners Head to the Exits

Posted by Sara Randazzo

UPDATE AND CORRECTION, 4/17/2012,1:10 p.m. EDT: A statement from Dewey has been added to the fourth, seventh, and eighth paragraphs below. An earlier version also incorrectly referred to the status of Kevin Felz while at Dewey. The headline and first and second paragraphs have been updated with the correct information.

Eight more Dewey & LeBoeuf partners have left the firm's New York office, including a five-partner energy and infrastructure team jumping to Hunton & Williams, a litigator moving to Dorsey & Whitney, and two corporate and securities partners joining Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

The Hunton team is led by Bud Ellis, a former cohead of Dewey's utilities, power and pipelines industry group. At Hunton, Ellis will lead the firm's energy capital markets practice in New York. Joining him in making the move are former Dewey partners Michael Fitzpatrick, Jr., Steven Friend, Steve Loeshelle, and Peter O'Brien, and former Dewey counsel Kevin Felz. All join Hunton as partners.

Also in New York, Pillsbury has grabbed former Dewey partners Catherine Hood and J. Anthony Terrell, corporate and securities lawyers who often work for energy clients.

In a statement, a Dewey spokesman said: "Current departures aside, Dewey & LeBoeuf retains one of the world’s leading energy practices spanning virtually every aspect of the sector across the globe. It has been an important component of the firm's practice for decades and remains as such."

Pillsbury chair Jim Rishwain says the new hires fit his firm's broader plan to "build a powerhouse energy firm across all fronts." Pillsbury lawyers have worked with and tried to recruit Hood and Terrell for "quite some time," Rishwain adds, noting that the rash of defections from Dewey in recent months was probably a factor in the pair's decision to finally come aboard.

Asked how, as a law firm leader, he views the events unfolding at Dewey, Rishwain says, "I'm sympathetic to what's happening, more than anything else."

The eighth Dewey partner in the latest batch of defectors is William Primps, a litigator whose practice focuses on antitrust, energy, insurance, and regulated industry. Primps started as a partner in Dorsey's New York office on Monday.

Primps, who had started his career at Dewey predecessor firm LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & McRae in 1974, says his decision to join Dorsey was prompted by the departure of Dewey colleagues with whom he had worked closely, particularly in connection with matters in China and Japan. "Support [for my practice] didn't exist anymore," he says. "It made sense to move."

The departures push the number of partners to leave the firm so far in 2012 well above 60. The firm is currently renegotiating an existing $100 million line of credit with its lender on the heels of installing a five-person "office of the chairman" to instill confidence in its dwindling partnership.

Dewey's statement on the latest losses reiterated a message the firm has said in the past, that some partners haven't liked the changes Dewey is implementing, and that departures outside of announced layoffs of staff and lawyers were expected.

"The number who have left to date, including firm-initiated reductions, is consistent with the reduced head count contemplated by our plan, which contemplates limited further head count reduction over the next several months," the statement says. "Changes we have enacted have strengthened our firm across the board and it is showing up in our finances, professionals, and new business we are winning."

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Admit it - this firm is dieing the death of a thousand cuts.

It is very unfortunate to see another firm in its death throes yet inevitably there will be those who reprise the part that Kevin Bacon palyed in Animal House where he said "Everyone remain calm." in the face of a stampede.

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