The Firms

December 14, 2011 5:57 PM

Much Ado About Mergers, But Closures Also a Part of 2011

Posted by Brian Baxter

Correction, 1/12/12, 12:30 p.m. EST: The original version of this story incorrectly characterized the status of The Law Office of David Stern. Though it closed its foreclosure practice in 2011, the firm remains operational. The article has been revised to include the correct information. We regret the error.

Merger mania in the legal industry continued this week with two more firms announcing acquisitions.

Duane Morris picked up Pittsburgh-based lobbying shop GSP Consulting to bolster its government affairs arm, while Washington, D.C.'s Van Ness Feldman merged with Seattle’s GordonDerr to create a 116-lawyer firm with offices in the two cities, according to reports by sibling publication The National Law Journal’s Blog of Legal Times.

Coming on the heels of Arnold & Porter's merger with Howard Rice and Bryan Cave’s tie-up with Holme Roberts & Owen, it's easy to think of 2011 as yet another chapter in a long trend of regional firm consolidation.

While that may be true, the year has also seen its share of law firm failures. This week alone, two firms—one in the United States, the other in Italy—announced they would dissolve, while the merger plans for two of India's oldest law firms appear doomed.

Atlanta-based construction law firm Shapiro Fussell Wedge & Martin disbanded this week after four decades of practice when two name partners joined Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz as senior counsel, according to sibling publication the Daily Report. The defections to Baker Donelson came about a month after a group of five Shapior Fussell lawyers, including name partner Robert Wedge, joined the Atlanta office of North Carolina firm Smith Moore Leatherwood, leaving Shapiro Fussell with just eight lawyers.

Overseas, meanwhile, partners at 60-lawyer Italian firm Grimaldi e Associati have voted to disband at the end of the month, according to U.K. publication Legal Week. The firm took a serious hit in November when former corporate chief Roberto Cappelli and a team of associates left to join leading Italian rival Gianni, Origoni, Grippo & Partners, which announced it would add Cappelli's name to its moniker. Grimaldi's dissolution comes nine years after it was reconstituted by five senior Italian lawyers who left the local offices of former merger partner Clifford Chance.

In India, two of the subcontinent's oldest firms are battling it out in a Bombay high court over a 2006 merger agreement that appears to have collapsed. Legally India reports that efforts to salvage FoxMandal Little have failed, with FoxMandal managing partner Som Mandal filing a criminal petition against the management of Little & Co. for canceling a memorandum of understanding that was the basis of a 2006 merger between both firms. Bar & Bench has a timeline for the dispute, which involves who would own the equity in the combined firm, as well as payments to its lawyers, according to The Financial Express of India.

The latest law firm closures add to a 2011 casualty list that is already fairly substantial. The departed include:

•New York foreclosure firm Steven J. Baum P.C., which last month announced mass layoffs and the shuttering of its operations, according to sibling publication the New York Law Journal. Baum’s decision to disband came after recent decisions by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to cease referring new cases to the firm, as well as the publication by The New York Times of embarrassing photos of firm employees posing as homeless people at a 2010 Halloween party. (Baum himself was less than pleased with the Times’s coverage.)

•Another embattled foreclosure practice that closed this year was the one headed by so-called foreclosure king David Stern of Plantation, Florida. After the Stern firm shuttered its foreclosure practice in March, The Am Law Daily estimated that at its height, the firm enjoyed profits on par with those racked up by some members of The Am Law 200. (As of early January, the firm remains operational and employs a small staff.)

•Elsewhere in Florida, the state's ongoing economic malaise contributed to the collapse of at least two firms, one of which, Ruden McClosky, entered Chapter 11 proceedings to salvage a bankruptcy sale last month to Fort Lauderdale-based Greenspoon Marder.

•Also in the Sunshine State, Yoss LLP, once the nation's largest minority-owned law firm, announced in March that it was folding after a series of office closings and financing problems prompted by the suspension of cofounder Henry Adorno's law license.

•In Los Angeles, 30-lawyer Silver & Freedman announced last month that it would dissolve in March 2012 after 36 years serving clients, with attorneys in its major practice areas opting to join other firms.

•And in June, we reported on the dissolution of Denver's Isaacson Rosenbaum, a firm with a 50-year history that saw its head count drop to less than 35 lawyers ahead of its collapse.

•Finally no tally of 2011's dead law firms would be complete without a mention of the largest of them all: the one-time Am Law 100 shop known as Howrey.

Of course, even dead firms can have an afterlife. Consider Heller Ehrman, which, as sibling publication The Recorder reported Wednesday, continues to pursue adversary proceedings against other firms that it claims poached its partners until its bitter end more than three years ago.

Make a comment

Comments (0)
Save & Share: Facebook | Del.ic.ious | | Email |

Reprints & Permissions


Report offensive comments to The Am Law Daily.

The comments to this entry are closed.

By: TwitterButtons.com

[email protected]

From the Newswire

Sign up to receive Legal Blog Watch by email
View a Sample