UPDATE: 3/10/14, 9:05 a.m. EDT. In a statement announcing its addition of four Bingham lawyers, Morgan Lewis chair Francis Milone says the firm’s hires will “enable us to serve better our growing list of clients focusing on energy and infrastructure investments around the world.”
A cross-practice team composed of four lawyers spread across three cities is poised to leave Bingham McCutchen for Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Morgan Lewis is expected to announce Monday that it has hired Washington, D.C.–based Bingham energy partner Mark Williams, tax partner Daniel Nelson and investment management partner Gerald “Jerry” Kehoe in Boston, and corporate of counsel Ann Chamberlain in New York. As a group, the lawyers joining Morgan Lewis specialize in energy and infrastructure work, two areas in which their new firm has traditionally been strong. Morgan Lewis, for instance, helped the Ukrainian government forge a $10 billion shale gas exploration and production agreement with energy giant Chevron late last year.
A Bingham spokeswoman told The Am Law Daily that the firm appreciated “the years of service provided” by the departing lawyers, none of whom were immediately available for comment. Chamberlain, a former Bingham partner who became of counsel last year, had already updated her LinkedIn account as of Friday to reflect her new role at Morgan Lewis. Records on file with the District of Columbia Bar confirm Williams’ move.
For Bingham, the losses are the latest in a series of departures to come on the heels of the firm’s worst financial performance in six years. Bingham’s gross revenue fell 12.6 percent in 2013, to $762 million, while its profits per partner declined 12.7 percent to nearly $1.5 million, according to The American Lawyer’s reporting.
Bingham chairman Jay Zimmerman, who has led the firm since 1994, acknowledged in a February discussion with The Am Law Daily that last year was “obviously quite challenging.”
Zimmerman attributed the firm’s rough patch to a trio of factors: a slowdown in restructuring and insolvency work, the conclusion of some long-running litigation matters and a nearly $23 million investment in a new back-office operations center in Lexington, Ky., which officially opened about a year ago. (While the investment cost each Bingham equity partner about $100,000 in profits, Zimmerman says the firm should start to see savings from the initiative soon.)
Bingham managing partner Steve Browne, who was promoted to that post last fall, generally echoed Zimmerman’s explanation for the 2013 results in a recent interview with the Boston Business Journal. Browne added that Bingham’s Boston office—which, as the home base of legacy firm Bingham, Dana & Gould, serves as its headquarters—was largely financially stable last year.
In recent weeks, Bingham has watched a trio of litigators in San Francisco led by white-collar cochair Raymond Marshall head to Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton and a nine-lawyer real estate group led by practice cochair Kenneth Lore to Katten Muchin Rosenman offices in New York and Washington, D.C. Other Bingham partners have jumped to Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and Winston & Strawn since the start of the year. The firm has also lost a handful of practice leaders within the past few months even as it made some lateral hires of its own, according to our previous reports.
The partners set to join Morgan Lewis include investment funds pro Kehoe, a 30-year Bingham veteran, and Chamberlain, a general corporate and securities law expert who in 2007 handled the first public offering by a special purpose acquisition company on the Euronext exchange. Williams, a former lawyer for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner’s division of corporate applications, has more than 20 years experience guiding clients through the various regulatory aspects of high-profile energy projects. Nelson frequently advises investment and pension funds on infrastructure and real estate deals.