The Firms

April 3, 2012 3:49 PM

Four Dewey Corporate Lawyers Jump to DLA Piper in New York

Posted by Sara Randazzo

As Dewey & LeBoeuf's dwindling partnership votes on a new management structure, two more partners have left for a rival.

The most recent departures, which bring the the total number of partner losses at the firm to 41 so far this year, are a four-attorney corporate group headed to DLA Piper in New York. All four—John Altorelli, Alexander Fraser, Patrick Costello, and Gerald Francese—join DLA as partners. Costello and Francese served as counsel at Dewey.

The new hires, who all started at DLA Piper on Tuesday, specialize in mergers and acquisitions, private equity, and finance deals. Altorelli will take on leadership roles at his new firm, where he will serve as cochair of DLA's domestic finance practice and a member of the firm's 24-member executive committee.

A Dewey spokesman said the firm had no comment on the departures.

Roger Meltzer, the New York–based global chair of DLA Piper's corporate and finance practice, said the hires mesh with what he calls the firm's push to "be a first-tier corporate and finance practice in New York." DLA currently has about 50 corporate attorneys in New York, according to a firm spokesman.

Meltzer says he first tried to persuade Altorelli to join DLA around the time that he himself lateraled to the firm in 2007 from Cahill Gordon & Reindel. He says he revived the conversation eight weeks ago. At that point, Meltzer says he and Altorelli made a "mutual pitch" to one another during a phone discussion.

The lateral losses come a day after Dewey partners began voting on amending the firm's partnership agreement to create a new leadership structure that would see current chairman Steven Davis joined by four other top partners on a five-headed "office of the chairman."

The other Dewey lawyers poised to join the office of the chairman are: Jeffrey Kessler, head of the firm's global litigation group; Martin Bienenstock, chairman of its business solutions and governance department and chair of the firm's consumer financial services group; L. Charles Landgraf, chairman of the legislative and public policy practice group and managing partner of the Washington, D.C., office; and Richard Shutran, chairman of the corporate department and global finance practice group. Davis is expected to relocate to Dewey's London office as part of the management overhaul.

The new structure places management of the firm's day-to-day operations in the hands of London partner Stephen Horvath. The firm's current executive director, Stephen DiCarmine, who many say has played a major role in firm management, will report to Horvath.

Left unclear amid the leadership shuffle: what roles co–vice-chairs Morton Pierce and Ralph Ferrara will now play. In those positions, created in 2010, Pierce and Ferrara focused more on nurturing client relationships than they did on helping to lead the firm. While firm leaders have not officially said they are eliminating the titles, Pierce, who led Dewey Ballantine at the time it merged with LeBoeuf Lamb in 2007, said Monday that he is "just a partner at the firm" and that "I haven't had a leadership role in years."

Within the past week, Dewey has also lost antitrust partner Eamon O'Kelly to Arent Fox in New York, and Silicon Valley partner Eric Reifschneider, who announced last month that he would be leaving for an in-house role at Qualcomm. The year's other major losses include six insurance partners, who jumped to Sutherland Asbill & Brennan in New York and Chicago and 12 insurance partners, who moved to Willkie Farr & Gallagher.

As of Tuesday, Dewey's partnership numbered 280, according to the firm's Web site.

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