NEW YORK, April 3 (Reuters) - A four-attorney mergers and
acquisitions group has left troubled law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf
for DLA Piper in New York.
The defections bring to at least 40 the number of partners
known to have left 1,000-attorney Dewey since the beginning of
John Altorelli, who leads the group of lawyers leaving
Dewey, will join DLA Piper as co-chairman of the firm's U.S.
finance practice and a member of the executive committee. The
other attorneys departing are former Dewey partner Alexander
Fraser, and Gerald Francese and Patrick Costello, both of whom
were counsel at Dewey. The group, which will become part of DLA
Piper's corporate and finance practice, handles mergers and
acquisitions, private equity deals and corporate transactions.
All of the attorneys joined DLA Piper as partners on
A Dewey & LeBoeuf spokesman declined comment.
Roger Meltzer, global chairman of DLA Piper's corporate and
finance practice, said that he had started talking to Altorelli
about eight weeks ago.
"We made a combined pitch to each other," he said. Meltzer
said that the additions enhanced the firm's corporate and
The departures are the latest setback for Dewey, which has
suffered thinning partner ranks and reports of financial woes.
Last week, Dewey announced a reorganization of its
management structure, replacing Steve Davis as the sole chairman
of the firm with a five-partner office of the chair, which
In mid-March, the law firm lost 12 partners from its
insurance group to Willkie, Farr & Gallagher. The co-leader of
the group joined DLA Piper in February. A few weeks later, six
Dewey partners went to Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. A Dewey
spokesman said that the impact of the departures would be
The loss of 40 partners represents a 13% decrease in the
number of partners, which totaled 304 at the end of 2011,
according to The National Law Journal.
The firm, which in 2011 brought aboard a number of
high-profile attorneys, has been unable to pay many of its
longer-term partners full compensation in recent months,
according to two partners who have left. Dewey is saddled with
large debt, including about $125 million in bond debt, a rare
liability for law firms.
Three law firm consultants contacted for this story declined
to discuss whether Dewey would survive the departures since the
beginning of the year or would be forced to declare bankruptcy.
Peter Zeughauser, a law firm consultant with Zeughauser
Group, said that the departures are having a compounding effect,
particularly in light of the firm's problems in fulfilling its
partner compensation obligations.
"With each group that leaves, they have a tougher hill to
climb in terms of generating the revenue necessary to pay
partners whose compensation they've deferred," he said.
Altorelli and Fraser joined Dewey Ballantine, Dewey &
LeBoeuf's predecessor law firm, in 2007 from Reed Smith. Dewey
Ballantine merged with LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae later that
Before working at Dewey Ballantine, Altorelli was a partner
at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker. He serves as debtor's
counsel for Capmark Financial Group, the commercial real estate
lender that filed for bankruptcy in 2009 with $21 billion in
Dewey's gross revenue was $910 million in 2010, and profits
per partner were $1.8 million, according to The American Lawyer.
At 4,200-lawyer DLA Piper, gross revenue in 2010 was $1.96
billion, and profits per partner were $1.1 million, AmLaw
(Updates with comment from law firm consultant; Corrects
amount of bond debt from $150 million to $125 million)
(Reporting by Leigh Jones)
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