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July 22, 2009 12:33 PM

Ex-Edwards Angell Partner Sues Firm After Getting Fired

Posted by Brian Baxter

Sibling publication the New York Law Journal reports that Stephen Connoni, a partner who left K&L Gates for Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge in September 2007, has sued Edwards Angell after the firm fired him a year later for failing to meet revenue expectations.

Connoni joined the New York office of Edwards Angell, a 550-lawyer general practice firm with Providence roots, in the prelude to the credit crisis. According to the civil complaint, Connoni was an equity partner for eight years at K&L Gates, growing the firm's New York corporate department from zero to 25 lawyers and bringing in $14 million in annual revenue at the team he left the firm.

Edwards Angell then recruited Connoni as a contract partner to help bolster the firm's corporate practice in New York. According to his complaint, Connoni would receive $625,000 in 2008, provided he generated $1.9 million in new business and collected $800,000 in fees for himself.

The NYLJ's Nate Raymond reports that an agreement between Connoni and Edwards Angell co-managing partner Terrence Finn states that beginning in 2009, the firm would determine Connoni's compensation on the same basis as other capital partners. Should Connoni not meet expectations, his compensation would be directly linked to how much the corporate lawyer collected.

Both sides now agree that Connoni did not meet Edwards Angell's expectations.

Connoni's complaint states that in the first nine months of 2008 he only billed $800,000 and collected $100,000. Edwards Angell filed an arbitration claim in May in Boston, which states that the firm collected $135,000 in 2007 and 2008 for Connoni's work--a mere 12 percent of what the lateral hire promised in his agreement with Finn. (The firm also alleges that Connoni did not show up for work at times and failed to make timely capital contributions.)

In his complaint, Connoni attributes his lackluster performance to the "unprecedented downturn" in the credit markets. The NYLJ reports that late-paying clients, a lack of firm support, the departure of key partners, and a failure of other partners to introduce him to Edwards Angell clients, are all reasons cited by Connoni for failing to meet his billing targets.

Connoni's complaint states that on September 23, 2008, Edwards Angell's firmwide managing partner Walter Reed informed him that he would be terminated. Connoni says he was given no advance notice, which he claims is a violation of the firm's partnership agreement.

As a result, Connoni claims he should not have been fired until January 2010 after a vote by at least 75 percent of the firm's partnership. Alleging that Edwards Angell did not follow these procedures, Connoni is seeking compensation through the first four months of 2010 and an unspecified amount in additional damages plus interest.

According to Am Law 100 financial data, Edwards Angell's gross revenues fell 1.7 percent in 2008 to $315 million and profits per equity partner dropped 15 percent to $610,000.

Connoni's lawyer, Joel Chernov at New York's Constantine Cannon, told the NYLJ that his client is now unemployed.

Two weeks after Connoni joined Edwards Angell, the NYLJ reports that the IRS began filing a series of liens against Connoni's property that now amount to more than $2.3 million. In Edwards Angell's arbitration claim, the firm states that it cannot assert a claim on $19,654 in Connoni's capital account because New York State has filed an additional $154,090 tax levy on the lawyer's property.

Chernov told the NYLJ that the liens were unrelated to Connoni's civil suit against his former firm.

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