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September 9, 2009 3:31 PM

What Will Bob Bennett's Departure Mean for Skadden?

Posted by Vivia Chen

There aren't that many lawyers in the Am Law universe with bold face names in their own right--but Washington litigator Robert Bennett comes pretty darn close. A fixture on the D.C. power circuit, he's counsel to the likes of Bill Clinton, Caspar Weinberger, John McCain, and now Sarah Palin. So when news broke recently that he was quitting Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom for Hogan & Hartson, tongues started wagging.

The first big question is how Bennett’s departure will affect Skadden's D.C. practice (it's not just Bennett that's leaving the office--fellow litigator Carl Rauh is joining his colleague at Hogan). According to sibling publication The National Law Journal, the impact of the move is anyone's guess. Criminal defense lawyer Plato Cacheris, told the NLJ "all the top cases that come around there come through Bob." Another D.C. lawyer Andrew Sandler, who himself left Skadden in March, told the paper: "People should not underestimate the remaining strength [of Skadden's D.C. office]." Time will tell.

Another big question looming over the move: how, or rather why, did Skadden let a big macher like Bennett away? Did the firm fail to offer Bennett, 70, a decent retirement package? Bennett says no: "They offered me a handsome package to stay." Or could it be that it just didn’t beg hard enough? "Some wonder whether Skadden should have done more," the NLJ reports. What that "more" might be remains an open question.

Meanwhile, people are looking to the clients to get a glimpse of the future. Skadden's D.C. managing partner, Clifford Naeve, says he expects Bennett's clients to stay with the firm, while Bennett talks about taking "several major cases" with him. 

Could it be that Sarah Palin holds the key to Bennett's and Skadden's future?

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Skadden made massive contributions to Obama and perhaps they didn't like the Palin representation

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