The Firms

October 27, 2008 4:31 PM

Thacher Proffitt Loses Vice Chairman

Posted by Nate Raymond

Web_leslie_thomas Thacher Proffitt & Wood, the beleaguered firm that bet big on commercial mortgage-backed securities only to see that market disappear, on Monday lost its vice chairman and lawyers in the firm's now-closed White Plains, N.Y. office to Greenberg Traurig.

Thomas Leslie (right), the now-former vice chairman of Thacher's executive committee, leads a group of eight lawyers who decamped to Greenberg to open a new office. In a press release announcing the move, Leslie left no doubt about the reasons why he was leaving Thacher, where he practiced since 1991.

"I have practiced law at Thacher Proffitt for a long time, and it is a fine firm," Leslie said. "But as I look to the balance of my legal career and how best to serve my clients during changing times, I sought out a firm with a more diverse business model and broader platform."

Thacher Proffitt declined comment. A call to the White Plains office was directed to the New York office, where a receptionist said the White Plains office had closed last week.

With the move, Thacher Proffitt appears to have lost the remains of its White Plains presence. The firm recently removed the section of its Web site dedicated to White Plains, which used to say that the firm opened there in response to New York-based corporations migrating to Westchester County. Practices in the office, which Leslie managed, included banking, bankruptcy, compensation and benefits, and corporate.

Greenberg's incoming group includes two real estate partners, Leslie and Thomas Infurna, as well as three of counsel and three associates. In February, Thacher Proffitt government relations partner Kevin Plunkett, also a member of the White Plains office, left for DelBello Donnellan Weingarten Wise & Wiederkehr with two associates.

Leslie's group represents the latest in a series of defections from the firm, which had a heavy presence in structured finance and saw profits per partner fall 22 percent to $1.02 million in 2007. The firm’s Web site lists 58 partners, down from 66 in September 2007. But that number masks the higher number of laterals, with at least 19 partners announcing moves this year.

The departing partners have left for such firms as Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker; McKenna Long & Aldridge; Bingham McCutchen; and Clifford Chance.

Overall headcount at Thacher Proffitt has fallen from 305 lawyers in September 2007 to 194 today, according to the firm’s Web site and Am Law 200 figures. By July, the firm had conducted three rounds of associate buyouts to cut headcount, The National Law Journal reported this summer.

The White Plains office is the second Thacher branch to disappear this year. In March, Thacher's Latin America practice joined Chadbourne & Parke, with the firm's Mexico City office in tow.

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