After years of contraction and almost three months scrambling toward a merger, Dickstein Shapiro has tied the knot. Or a hundred knots.
Blank Rome will acquire more than 100 lawyers—in essence, all of them—from Dickstein Shapiro, the firm told National Law Journal affiliate The Legal Intelligencer on Thursday.
Yet the acquisition is not a merger. Blank Rome will take over Dickstein Shapiro’s Washington lease and move from its Watergate complex home in the city to the International Square building that formerly bore Dickstein’s name. Dickstein Shapiro’s New York office also will consolidate with Blank Rome.
When asked whether Blank Rome would be responsible for certain Dickstein Shapiro liabilities, such as former partners’ capital, Blank Rome chairman Alan Hoffman said questions about the next step for Dickstein Shapiro would have to be directed to that firm.
“We are really not involved in that,” Hoffman said.
He said the attorneys who have joined Blank Rome are bringing their work in process and accounts receivable.
Hoffman said he isn’t sure what title to give the wind-down of Dickstein Shapiro’s operations because he has not been involved in that process.
But Dickstein Shapiro had a title for it on its website Thursday afternoon.
The firm superceded all its online information with a two-paragraph note that announced the Blank Rome acquisition.
“Under this extended platform, these attorneys will offer clients a greater range of legal services, deeper bench strength, and a broader geographic reach.”
The message added: “Dickstein Shapiro LLP is no longer engaged in the practice of law.”
Talks For weeks
Midsized, Washington-based Dickstein Shapiro and Blank Rome, an Am Law 100 Philadelphia-founded firm, had been talking for weeks. Those talks arose after Dickstein Shapiro considered options with several other firms and failed to close a merger with Bryan Cave even after earning both partnerships’ votes of support.
Years ago, Dickstein Shapiro was the scrappy bulldog of Washington’s legal community. The firm took risks—and the risks paid off.
Its insurance recovery practice was a powerhouse, despite it being a conflicts-rife practice over representation of policyholders. Its antitrust litigators won contingency bonanzas for the firm and millions for clients who had opted out of class action settlements. Its energy partners, rich in personality as well as business, held significant power inside the firm. And the lobbying group once held the largest client contract on K Street, for tobacco company Lorillard.
Some of those rainmakers began to peel away as many as eight years ago.
“It was a family, and there was a great deal of warmth,” said Claudia Shapiro Taskier, the daughter of firm co-founder David Shapiro and wife of former litigation partner Paul Taskier. She spoke to the NLJ Thursday night.
Dickstein’s numbers have dwindled for years and the departures picked up speed in 2014 and 2015. Large portions of its lobbying, insurance recovery and other groups left for larger law firms. The indictment of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a Dickstein Shapiro lobbyist, landed yet another blow to the firm.
The firm this month could count fewer than 120 lawyers, mostly specializing in intellectual property, government-contracts law, insurance and other litigation. Firm managing partner James Kelly, who has led Dickstein Shapiro for two years, will become Blank Rome’s Washington office head.
“We have long admired Blank Rome’s deliberate and steady evolution, and its commitment to delivering top-level service to its clients,” Kelly said in the statement Thursday that announced the deal.
Blank Rome’s 475-lawyer size has benefited from acquisitions in certain cities, including the acquisition of an intellectual property boutique in Houston last year. In 2012, the firm absorbed two-thirds of the well-knownWashington litigation boutique Janis, Schuelke & Wechsler.
Dickstein Shapiro’s profits per partner in 2014 were just above $1 million. The firm has not yet reported its 2015 results to the American Lawyer. Blank Rome reported profits per partner in 2015 of $890,000, as well as a 4 percent gross revenue increase.
Gina Passarella, who writes for NLJ affiliate The Legal Intelligencer, contributed.
This story was updated with more information, and comment, about the deal. An earlier version misidentified the location of the intellectual property boutique Blank Rome acquired in 2014.