The partners include Jonathan Bernstein, the former co-chair of Bingham's banking and leveraged finance group. Morgan Lewis says the Boston-based group will focus on corporate finance and restructuring.
"Particularly in light of the difficult credit markets faced by both our lender and borrower clients, there is an ever-increasing need for us to be able to provide additional top-flight financing expertise across a multitude of industries" Morgan Lewis Chair Francis Milone said in a statement.
With banking and finance suffering under the weight of the credit crisis and recession, it may seem like an odd time to for a firm to bulk up on lawyers who specialize in lending. But the former Bingham partners say they are busy on new loans, credit restructurings and debtor-in-possession financings in bankruptcies.
"This group is comfortable doing workouts, DIP financings, whatever the work is related to this kind of financing, in any environment," Bernstein says. "And when the lending environment picks up and we get into a better credit environment, we will be comfortable and our clients are comfortable that we'll be able to represent them in large syndicated loans, asset-based ones, you pick it. We're really a non-cyclical practice the way we run."
Morgan Lewis says the group brings with it a stable of longstanding institutional clients that are active in the market. It also expects the Bingham group's business to further expand as the economy rebounds.
Judging from the number of lawyers making the move, Morgan Lewis is likely to inherit a sizeable amount of business, says Brion Bickerton, a Boston-based recruiter with Major, Lindsey & Africa. Firms have been giving more scrutiny to the books of business of potential laterals to ensure they are really portable and of size, he says, and Morgan Lewis is no different.
"In this market people don't do things on spec," Bickerton says.
The other partners making the move include Robert Barry, Sula Fiszman, Matthew Furlong and Sandra Vrejan. Morgan Lewis is also hiring six associates from Bingham.
A spokeswoman for Bingham, Claire Papanastasiou, in a statement said the firm wishes the laterals well. "Just as many laterals join Bingham because they believe it will offer them a new opportunity, sometimes they may leave for similar personal reasons," she said.
Bingham went into 2009 with solid financials. Gross revenue climbed 3.2 percent to $767 million. Profits per partner jumped 6.4 percent to $1.42 million. But the recession has not left the firm untouched. In March, Bingham laid off 16 associates and 23 staff members because of reduced demand in its corporate practice.
"As we have noted throughout the past year, we are living in very dynamic times, and through it all, Bingham is stronger than ever, and the finance and banking practice in our Boston office and firmwide will continue to prosper and play an important role for our local, national and international clients," Papanstasiou said in her statement.
Morgan Lewis saw revenue climb 8.5 percent to $1.12 billion in 2008, while profits per partner inched up 1.4 percent to $1.45 million. But in March, it laid off 55 attorneys and 161 staff members because of a slide in business.
This article first appeared on The Am Law Daily blog on AmericanLawyer.com.