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March 16, 2010 5:11 PM

At Ruden McClosky, the Exodus Continues

Posted by Zach Lowe

Ruden McClosky, the Florida firm that has lost about 50 partners and two entire offices over the past year, saw five more lawyers wave goodbye this week for the West Palm Beach office of Fox Rothschild, the firms say. 

The mass departures to Fox, Adams and Reese, and other firms have spurred rumors that Ruden is on the verge of dissolving. The firm has denied those rumors, saying it is fine and will continue to look for lateral hires.

Our colleagues at the Daily Business Review, meanwhile, have reported that Ruden's remaining partners continue to eye the exits as rivals circle the firm, which the paper characterizes as crippled by internal dissension, a lack of confidence in its leadership, and a challenging debt situation. One potential answer, reported by the Daily Business Review late last month: Ruden may scale back to being a Fort Lauderdale-only firm.

We asked Amy Rubin, one of the new Fox Rothschild lawyers, point blank whether she thought her old firm would survive. "I believe so," she says. "I believe so." Rubin and David Greene, another litigation partner who jumped to Fox, say they began negotiating with the Philadelphia-based firm before the recent wave of departures from Ruden started in November. The reason the talks dragged on: Fox and Ruden share space on the seventh floor of the same West Palm Beach office building, Rubin and Greene say. "We shared bathrooms," Rubin says. "We said 'Hi!' all the time. It was a fairly long courtship, and it has nothing to do with anything that has happened at Ruden."

Rubin believes the defection of eight critical lawyers to Adams and Reese in January served as something of a wake-up call to Ruden. After those departures, Rubin says, a group of younger partners "came forward and said, 'We want to be involved. We want to take control.'" Though Carl Schuster remains the firm's managing partner, Rubin says other Ruden leaders agreed to give the younger crew more power and more input in firm decisions. "I see something positive happening there now," she says. (We wonder if one of these newly empowered partners is the same anonymous Ruden lawyer who labeled the firm's management "morons" in this story in the Daily Business Review last month).

In a strange way, Rubin and Greene may actually be helping Ruden by moving, they say. The two are keeping their same offices in West Palm Beach, and Fox is taking over that portion of Ruden's lease, Rubin and Greene say. Ruden has identified the readjustment of its leases as a key component in its recovery and survival, Rubin says. 

We'll definitely give Rubin and Greene this: In terms of sheer physical ease, their move beats even that of the 13 Dickstein Shapiro lawyers whose move to Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman in January consisted of only a shift between floors at 1633 Broadway in New York City.

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