Washington, D.C. offices of Morgan Lewis. June 10, 2015. Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/THE NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL.
Washington, D.C. offices of Morgan Lewis. June 10, 2015. Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/THE NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL. (Diego M. Radzinschi)

When employee benefits partner Steven Witmer left Ivins, Phillips & Barker’s Los Angeles office for Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in January, it was his first new job in 26 years. It took just 31 days for him to return to the firm where he began his career.

Witmer defected to Morgan Lewis from Ivins Phillips along with fellow employee benefits partners Rosina Barker and Jonathan Zimmerman, who are based in Washington, D.C. But a month later, Witmer approached his old firm about coming back.

The speedy deliberation that followed affirmed his preference for working at a smaller shop, he said, citing the “lack of bureaucracy” at Ivins Phillips, a firm that on its website touts its small size as a secret to its success.

“I think I expressed that interest at the end of one day, and then first thing the next morning they had talked,” said Witmer, pictured right. “They had already determined that they wanted me back.”

Ivins Phillips, which specializes in tax and employee benefits law, has about 30 lawyers, almost all of whom are in Washington, D.C. Morgan Lewis has nearly 2,000 lawyers spread across 30 offices around the world.

Client conflicts also influenced Witmer’s decision, he said. He primarily represents employers, and Morgan Lewis represents a number of benefits vendors and insurers, which made it challenging for him to avoid ending up across the table from his colleagues, he said.

“Steve is an extremely strong benefits attorney, with extensive knowledge, expertise, and connections, and we are happy to welcome him back,” said a statement by Kevin O’Brien, leader of the employee benefits and executive compensation group at Ivins Phillips. Barker and Zimmerman remain at Morgan Lewis, which did not return a request for comment.

Witmer said that though the move didn’t work out for him, he has no hard feelings about his brief stay.

“For the right attorney, I think Morgan Lewis is a fantastic firm,” Witmer said. “It has lot of resources, a lot of capabilities and good talent, specifically in the benefits group.”

Witmer is not the first—and certainly not the last—Big Law partner to backtrack on a decision to change firms.

The Recorder reported in 2013 on Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati corporate partner Michael Ringler’s quick return to the firm’s Bay Area base after a month at Kirkland & Ellis.

In 2014, David Katz, a former co-head of the securities and derivatives enforcement and regulatory practice at Sidley Austin, returned to the firm after six weeks at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson in New York.

Copyright The American Lawyer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

When employee benefits partner Steven Witmer left Ivins, Phillips & Barker ’s Los Angeles office for Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in January, it was his first new job in 26 years. It took just 31 days for him to return to the firm where he began his career.

Witmer defected to Morgan Lewis from Ivins Phillips along with fellow employee benefits partners Rosina Barker and Jonathan Zimmerman, who are based in Washington, D.C. But a month later, Witmer approached his old firm about coming back.

The speedy deliberation that followed affirmed his preference for working at a smaller shop, he said, citing the “lack of bureaucracy” at Ivins Phillips , a firm that on its website touts its small size as a secret to its success.

“I think I expressed that interest at the end of one day, and then first thing the next morning they had talked,” said Witmer, pictured right. “They had already determined that they wanted me back.”

Ivins Phillips , which specializes in tax and employee benefits law, has about 30 lawyers, almost all of whom are in Washington, D.C. Morgan Lewis has nearly 2,000 lawyers spread across 30 offices around the world.

Client conflicts also influenced Witmer’s decision, he said. He primarily represents employers, and Morgan Lewis represents a number of benefits vendors and insurers, which made it challenging for him to avoid ending up across the table from his colleagues, he said.

“Steve is an extremely strong benefits attorney, with extensive knowledge, expertise, and connections, and we are happy to welcome him back,” said a statement by Kevin O’Brien, leader of the employee benefits and executive compensation group at Ivins Phillips . Barker and Zimmerman remain at Morgan Lewis , which did not return a request for comment.

Witmer said that though the move didn’t work out for him, he has no hard feelings about his brief stay.

“For the right attorney, I think Morgan Lewis is a fantastic firm,” Witmer said. “It has lot of resources, a lot of capabilities and good talent, specifically in the benefits group.”

Witmer is not the first—and certainly not the last—Big Law partner to backtrack on a decision to change firms.

The Recorder reported in 2013 on Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati corporate partner Michael Ringler’s quick return to the firm’s Bay Area base after a month at Kirkland & Ellis .

In 2014, David Katz, a former co-head of the securities and derivatives enforcement and regulatory practice at Sidley Austin , returned to the firm after six weeks at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson in New York .

Copyright The American Lawyer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.