Chicago-based Schiff Hardin confirmed Friday the impending departure of 22 partners, including 14 equity partners. The losses include the firm’s former chairman, its former managing partner and the current chair of its diversity committee.
The group is led by Chicago-based partners Robert “Bob” Riley, Ronald “Ron” Safer, Patricia Holmes and Joseph Cancila Jr., who are leaving Schiff Hardin to start their own firm, Riley, Safer, Holmes & Cancila. Bloomberg Big Law Business first reported the news of the exodus Friday.
Riley, Schiff Hardin’s former chairman, as well as Safer, the firm’s former managing partner, confirmed their departures to The Am Law Daily on Friday. Their new firm will have offices in Chicago, New York and San Francisco.
According to Safer, co-leader of Schiff Hardin’s compliance and internal investigations practice as well as its white-collar defense and government investigations practice, the group departing for Riley Safer also includes Stephen Hankins, leader of the firm’s intellectual property practice; Matthew Fischer, leader of the product liability and mass tort practice; Thomas Quinn, leader of the general litigation practice; and Heidi Dalenberg and Matthew Crowl, deputy leaders of the general litigation practice.
Neither Holmes, a retired associate judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County who co-leads Schiff Hardin’s compliance and internal investigations practice, as well as its white-collar defense and government investigations practice, nor Cancila, who co-leads the firm’s class actions practice, returned requests for comment Friday.
Riley said the departure was amicable, with Safer (pictured right) noting that collectively the group has spent hundreds of years at Schiff Hardin. They declined to comment on what prompted their move or how long it had been in the works, but they said that no recruiters or consultants were involved. (Internet domain name registration records show that the website URL for Riley Safer was registered just before Christmas.)
Neither would comment on which clients might be joining them at their new firm. They also declined to comment on when they expect to recoup their capital contributions from Schiff Hardin.
As previously reported by The Am Law Daily, Safer served as Schiff Hardin’s managing partner for a decade before he was succeeded last year by the current holder of that title, Marci Eisenstein, who has been at the firm since 1979 and specializes in representing insurance companies in class actions. Trial veteran Riley, who handles commercial litigation and appellate work, served as chairman of Schiff Hardin from 2006 to 2015.
“We have received notice from 14 of our equity partners of their intention to leave the firm and pursue other opportunities. We thank them for their service and wish them luck,” said Eisenstein in a statement provided to The Am Law Daily. “The vast majority of our business and practices are not affected by these departures, as a large concentration of those departing focus on asbestos litigation. As a result, their resignations do not alter our strategy for the future.”
Safer confirmed that the departing group includes leading asbestos litigation lawyers, but said that 70 percent of the lawyers leaving Schiff Harden practice in other areas.
Eisenstein’s statement also said, “Our deep bench is the reason Schiff Hardin remains a national leader in the markets we serve. I look forward to spearheading this next chapter in our growth as we continue to build upon our record year in 2015. Above all else, we remain steadfast in our focus to provide exceptional service to our clients.”
Schiff Hardin—currently home to more than 400 lawyers—came in at No. 128 on the most recent Am Law 200 ranking, with gross revenues of $241 million in 2014 and profits per partner of $810,000. Earlier this month, the firm hired tax partner Jon Feldhammer in San Francisco and investment management partner Dominick Pugliese in New York.