Bingham Expats Look Beyond Morgan Lewis: Business of Law

When Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP announced its hiring of more than 500 lawyers from Bingham McCutchen LLP, the statement didn’t say where the rest -- including about 80 partners -- would land.

It shouldn’t be inferred that Morgan Lewis didn’t want them. Instead, many considered Morgan Lewis but eventually decided to go elsewhere.

Some said their reasons for moving were independent of the uncertain state of Bingham. Others said that once merger rumors began circulating last summer, they began to evaluate their options for life after Bingham.

Friends and headhunters began calling. People began to look at Plan B.

The destinations of many of those lawyers began to emerge last week.

Blank Rome LLP, Clifford Chance LLP, Troutman Sanders LLP, Proskauer Rose LLP and Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP are just a few of those who are gaining lawyers.

Many of those moving did so because of practice areas and personal connections at the new firms.

For example, Yousuf Dhamee, who specializes in investment management, focusing on hedge funds as well as private-equity, real estate and venture-capital funds, opted to join Stroock, as a partner in Los Angeles, along with a Bingham associate.

Dhamee said his move was more about the “opportunities at Stroock rather than what was going on at Bingham.”

Personal Contacts

He said he became interested because Tram Nguyen, who had worked with his wife at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP and then at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, had joined Stroock along with Robert Plaze, who had been the deputy director of the SEC’s Division of Investment Management.

For Daniel Cooperman, a Silicon Valley attorney who was both a partner at legacy firm McCutchen Doyle and general counsel at Oracle Corp. and Apple Inc., moving was simple. Stasia Kelly, a co-managing partner in the Americas for DLA Piper LLP, called him as word of the potential combination with Morgan Lewis got out.

She’s a “dear friend,” and although “I was getting other calls, hers was particularly meaningful,” he said in an interview last week.

Global Reach

Cooperman was attracted by the global reach of DLA Piper. He has joined as of counsel, a role similar to the one he held at Bingham. He didn’t want to be partner, he explained, because as a public-company board member, a tech-company adviser and a fellow at the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University he had other interests and commitments.

Some of the partners going to other firms did so because of conflicts that Morgan Lewis presented. Bill Goddard, for example, joined Day Pitney LLP as a partner in the insurance and reinsurance group in Hartford, Connecticut. The announcement said Morgan Lewis wasn’t an option because it presented “immediate conflicts for Bill and the clients he was serving.”

Stanley Twardy, Day Pitney’s managing partner, said in an interview last week that Goddard, who represents insurers, was already known to lawyers at the firm and helped to round out the firm’s insurance practice.

He said his firm has also hired trusts-and-estates partners Leila Dal Pos, David Silvian and Barbara Freedman Wand, and counsel Amy Lonergan from Bingham as well, adding that the firm might also hire some associates.

Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance added five attorneys from Bingham, led by partners Robert J. Gross and William Cejudo, along with two counsel and an associate, to its Washington office. Gross has joined the corporate practice and Cejudo has joined the tax, pensions and employment team. At Bingham, the group works on structured-finance transactions including deals in the residential mortgage-backed securities market.

Evan Cohen, Americas regional managing partner at Clifford Chance, said conversations with the lawyers began in the spring before merger talks became known. Their hiring had “nothing to do” with the Morgan Lewis-Bingham transaction but was driven by the fit of their practice with that at Clifford Chance, he said.

Those interviewed uniformly said they had spoken to multiple firms -- often including Morgan Lewis -- but ultimately decided that other places provided a better fit. The reasons included technology -- William Berkowitz brought a group of lawyers to Seyfarth Shaw LLP -- and practice areas, as with Goddard.

Already Working

The lawyers are already at work in their new offices.

On joining Clifford Chance last week, Gross said, he immediately began working on five deals in progress. The biggest challenge in joining midstream in a transaction: learning a new computer system quickly.

Blank Rome LLP has hired four litigators -- partners Frank Kaplan and Jonathan A. Loeb and of counsel Ken Meyers and Jeffrey Rosenfeld -- from Bingham, and these lawyers are also active and have picked up new matters in the week they’ve begun, Alan Hoffman, the chairman and managing partner of Blank Rome, said in an interview.

He added that the hires are part of Blank Rome’s move to expand its Los Angeles presence. While the firm used a recruiter for two of the lawyers, it also relied on a personal connection -- the two partners had previously worked with Blank Rome partner William Small.

The timing of all the moves will be a little complicated for accounting purposes. Lawyers say that in December they turn into bill collectors before year-end. A lateral partner’s new firm is entitled only to the fees earned once the lawyer has joined. Any fee attributable to work done previously is the asset of the prior firm.

Firms Cooperate

Hoffman said that in the firm’s lateral-partner agreement, “one of the conditions is that they cooperate in full with their prior firm” in collecting fees.

That responsibility stems from a lawyer’s ethical obligations. Sometimes it also comes down to a sense of loyalty that may transcend professional responsibility.

Gross, for example, had begun talking to Clifford Chance partners in the spring.

“We would have jumped over to Clifford Chance earlier if we could have,” he said in an interview. “But we stayed as long as we did to help with the transaction Bingham was doing with Morgan.”

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