The Talent

December 13, 2010 6:00 AM

Howrey Litigation Cochair Heading to Sidley Austin

Posted by Brian Baxter

Images Gary Bendinger, the cochair of Howrey's litigation practice, is joining Sidley Austin, The Am Law Daily has learned. Two other litigation partners from Howrey's New York office--Gregory Ballard and Kevin Burke--will join Bendinger (photo at right) at his new firm. The trio has extensive experience representing accounting firms in liability litigation.

A Sidley spokeswoman confirms the addition of the three partners, saying the group is not available to discuss the move. (A Howrey spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on the departures.)

"Gary, Greg, and Kevin are each respected and experienced litigators who embrace the highest standards of client service," said a statement by Charles "Chuck" Douglas, a Sidley litigation partner and chair of the firm's executive committee. "They join our extremely active accountants liability practice and will enable us to significantly expand its scope in New York and throughout the world."

Bendinger brings more than 30 years of experience in complex commercial litigation, with a specialty in representing Big Four accounting firms. One of Bendinger's largest clients is KPMG, which he has represented in litigation stemming from the 2005 collapse of commodities dealer Refco. Bendinger and his team have also done work for Deloitte and handled more limited engagements for PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young.

In addition to their accounting expertise, Bendinger and his two partners boast resumes with a variety of work in other areas of litigation. Ballard, who served on Howrey's management committee with Bendinger, also handles securities class actions and regulatory investigations and enforcement actions. Burke has experience in antitrust, trade secrets, and telecommunications work.

The move was brokered by Sabina Lippman of California-based legal recruiting firm Watanabe Nason Schwartz & Lippman. Lippman says Sidley "got in early" on the move to recruit Bendinger, citing his friendship with Douglas as a critical part of the deal.

The losses are the latest in a long line of departures from Howrey this past year. The American Lawyer detailed those moves and other challenges faced by the firm in this story in the November 2010 issue of the magazine. As senior reporter Julie Triedman wrote, "Since March, there has been an extraordinary exodus of partners, capped in mid-October by the departure of most of the vaunted European IP practice, including the firm's Europe managing partner and 11 other partners."

This latest news brings the total partner departures since last winter to 66. It also leaves only three remaining partners in the firm's New York office. Howrey let go of 29 associates and 65 staff members in February, and cut another 32 staffers in November.

The Am Law Daily reported earlier this year that the acquisition of high-profile laterals like Bendinger and a prominent construction group from now-defunct Thelen had created internal client conflicts that hurt other Howrey partners. (Bendinger joined the firm in September 2005 when Howrey acquired his Salt Lake City litigation boutique, Bendinger, Crockett, Peterson, Greenwood & Casey.)

According to the most recent Am Law 100 financial data, Howrey saw gross revenue plummet more than 16 percent in 2009 to $480 million. Profits per partner decreased 35 percent to $845,000.

Sidley Austin also saw a big decline in gross revenue--it fell 9 percent to almost $1.4 billion in 2009. Profits per partner increased 2 percent to nearly $1.5 million as the firm decreased the number of its equity partners by 8.4 percent.

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