The Qualcomm discovery fiasco dealt a blow to the lawyers involved at Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder. As the question of sanctions lingers in the courts, another big one remains: How badly will it hurt the highly respected patent litigation boutique?
Five Day Casebeer lawyers -- as well as one from Heller Ehrman -- were sanctioned in January after client Qualcomm failed to turn over crucial documents in a patent fight with Broadcom. Although the order has been vacated until the lawyers get to tell their side of the story, the final outcome is still uncertain.
The firm celebrated its anniversary over the July 4 weekend, marking 10 years since five Cooley Godward lawyers struck out on their own. Craig Casebeer, having hit 60, fulfilled longstanding plans to retire in December, and Lloyd "Rusty" Day has been left to groom the next generation of leadership while holding the firm together through the Qualcomm debacle.
"It's had a sobering effect on our firm in the sense that we have confronted, what is obvious to everyone, a very difficult situation," Day said quietly earlier this week. "I am proud to say that we've confronted it very responsibly."
The Qualcomm discovery disaster -- and the judge's harsh criticism of such a large group of well-known lawyers -- caused a crush of negative publicity and has quickly become an oft-repeated cautionary tale at law firms, law schools, conferences and CLE classes.
Since the scandal broke, five associates have left the firm, which now has 38 attorneys. Most recently, the two associates who were sanctioned, Adam Bier and Kevin Leung, departed.
The three partners who were sanctioned, James Batchelder, Lee Patch and Christian Mammen, are still with the firm. However, Patch is no longer a partner. He has the new title of senior counsel and has been circulating his resume at other firms, according to a source familiar with the matter. Batchelder was also rumored to be testing the market last year.
Between a founder retiring and a scandal, a small firm could find itself in danger of collapse or considering escape through merger. But several observers said that with a its solid reputation, strong leadership could guide the firm through the rough times.
"If they have good leadership -- and they do have great clients -- why wouldn't they stay together?" said Marty Africa, a veteran legal recruiter with Major, Lindsey & Africa.
Casebeer's retirement, observers say, does not create a leadership vacuum. The move had long been in the works, and Day has long been the driving force at the firm. Though Day, 56, continues to talk about grooming successors, a lot of the leadership role still appears to fall to him. He stepped into the managing partner position at the beginning of this year, a position Casebeer used to hold.