NEW YORK, May 3 (Reuters) - A raft of new partner defections
including a key rainmaker hit Dewey & LeBoeuf on Thursday, as
management found itself denying a report that the troubled U.S. law firm planned to close shop as early as in the next two
Morton Pierce, a Dewey vice chairman, will join White &
Case, along with seven corporate and M&A partners in New York, a
spokeswoman for White & Case said. In addition to the group's
departure, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius said on Thursday it had hired
three litigation partners from Dewey's London office, including
its managing partner, Peter Sharp.
Pierce, who had been chairman of predecessor firm Dewey
Ballantine, said Thursday that the last few weeks at the firm
had been a challenge.
"Has it been difficult? Yes," he said in an interview,
adding that he felt "great" about going to White & Case.
A spokesman for Dewey declined to comment on Pierce's plans
In the wake of the defections, both a spokesman for Dewey
and a member of its management group found themselves Thursday
afternoon denying a published report in trade publication The
American Lawyer that the firm planned to shutter by May 15.
"No such plans exist," Martin Bienenstock, a bankruptcy
partner at Dewey and a member of the firm's four-person office
of the chairman, said in an e-mail.
Dewey, which has offices in 26 cities around the world, was
until recently among the top 20 largest law firms in the United
States, with 1,040 lawyers, according to an annual survey by the
National Law Journal, an industry publication.
But since January, it has lost more than 100 of its 300
partners amid a mounting debt crisis and concerns over partner
In recent weeks, Dewey has considered a number of
alternatives including deals with other law firms.
Merger talks with SNR Denton, the latest merger candidate,
have come to an end, a person briefed on the matter said
Thursday. The talks fell apart after Dewey said that its former
chairman, Steven Davis, was under investigation by the Manhattan
district attorney's office, according to the person, who spoke
on condition of anonymity. Davis has denied wrongdoing.
Dewey had previously been in talks with Greenberg Traurig
about a possible transaction, but those talks also ended, Dewey
Bienenstock said in an email Thursday morning that talks
"are not off with any firm, they simply change scope."
And, while law firm SNR Denton said it is not talking about
a merger, it appears to be considering hiring lawyers from
Dewey. SNR Denton Chief Executive Elliott Portnoy sent an email
Wednesday to SNR Denton partners saying the firm was making
efforts to attract the "strong, profitable parts" of Dewey,
according to an SNR Denton partner who read the email.
Portnoy declined to comment. Jeff Scalzi, a spokesman for
SNR Denton, said "we are looking at selective acquisitions, but
we aren't commenting further."
Another firm, Patton Boggs, has been exploring opportunities
short of a full merger, a different source familiar with the
matter said on Monday.
In an email Monday, Dewey management "encouraged" partners
to seek out other jobs.
Bienenstock said Monday that bankruptcy was "not in current
On Monday, Dewey obtained a two-week extension in
negotiations between it and a bank group over a $100 million
credit line. Dewey has drawn down $75 million on that credit
Bienenstock, who declined an interview request, said in an
e-mail on Thursday that Dewey had not appointed a dissolution
committee, an entity put in place by law firms to oversee their
wind down process.
"We have created no such committee; and I do not plan to
dignify with further responses the press' insatiable appetite to
fabricate negative facts," he said.
(Corrects closure report date in first paragraph)
(Reporting by Nate Raymond and Leigh Jones)
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