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June 9, 2009 6:45 PM

Sonnenschein Hit with $30 Million Poaching Suit

Posted by Zach Lowe


Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal was hit with a lawsuit Friday accusing the firm of illegally recruiting several lawyers from a Chicago-based consulting firm where a Sonnenschein partner used to work, court records show. 

The suit, which seeks injunctive relief and $30 million, accuses Lisa Murtha, a partner in Sonnenschein's health care practice, of orchestrating the recruitment of three employees at her former company, Huron Consulting Group. In court records, Huron describes Sonnenschein as its "direct competitor" in the health care consulting business. 

Huron filed the suit in Chicago's Cook County Circuit Court, which does not have an online database that allows users to download complaints. Jennifer Frost Hennagir, Huron's media director, refused to give Am Law Daily a copy of the complaint. Christopher Barber, the Steptoe & Johnson partner representing Huron, did not return multiple calls and e-mails seeking comment. 

According to an abstract of the suit on the court's Web site, Murtha "recruited several Huron employees to download company information, solicit Huron clients for Sonnenschein, and to leave Huron." The suit charges breach of fiduciary duty, violation of trade secrets laws, and computer fraud. 

Other ex-Huron employees named in the suit are: Nancy Freeman, Linda Robinson and Judy Ringholz. Freeman is listed as a managing director in Sonnenschein's health care group, Robinson is not listed on the firm's Web site and Ringholz is listed as the group's compliance director. None of the three responded to calls and e-mails seeking comment.

The firm issued a a statement through a spokeswoman calling the suit "without merit" and saying the firm will vigorously defend itself. Elliott Portnoy, Sonnenschein's chairman, was traveling and unavailable for further comment.

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