Nearly a month after announcing they would move to Sidley Austin’s Dallas office, a group of eight partners in Weil, Gotshal & Manges’ Big D office changed their work address on Oct. 15.
A total of nine partners, four counsel and 10 associates from Weil’s Dallas office have moved to Sidley in Dallas, and another three associates will move soon, according to lawyer counts provided by Sidley.
Carter Phillips, the chairman of Sidley who is the firm spokesman on the lateral hires in Dallas, said it’s highly unusual for lawyers in the United States to be required to stay at a former firm for weeks after they announce they are joining a new firm.
“You usually want a cleaner break,” he says.
In June, New York City-based Weil laid off 60 associates and 110 staff firmwide, and that reduction impacted the firm’s complex commercial litigation practice in Houston.
Sidley announced on Sept. 17 that eight partners from Weil Gotshal’s Dallas office would join its Dallas office in September, but the lawyers could not make the transition until they were released by their former firm.
Glenn West, managing partner of the Weil Dallas office, did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Yvette Ostolaza, who is in line to become managing partner of Sidley’s Dallas office in January 2014, says, “Sidley has a stellar reputation for handling complex litigation matters and strong reputation for client service. The firm has made news with the continued expansion of its Houston office and is widely recognized as a powerhouse in the legal community. Its continued expansion in Texas, as well as nationally and globally, solidifies its standing. We are delighted to be here and look forward to collaborating with our new colleagues to provide the best possible service to our clients.”
In addition to the group of eight partners, on Oct. 7, Sidley announced that S. Scott Parel, a private equity and M&A attorney who also was a partner in Weil, would also join its Dallas office as a partner.
While the Weil partners were not able to join Sidley in speedy fashion after they announced their move, Phillips says the associates were able to make a quicker exit from Weil.
Because of the awkward transition, Sidley senior counsel Ted Miller of Los Angeles spent time in Dallas, assisting the new associates as they did work for clients who had already moved to Sidley because of the large influx of partners.
Miller said the transition was smooth because the associates know the clients and the work, and they did what needed to be done but “at another place.”
Under normal circumstances, Miller says his role is to help lateral partners “get conflicts addressed and engagement letters out, new matters open and the like, getting them oriented with Sidley policies.”
Other Weil Departures
Other Weil lawyers in Texas also have joined new firms recently. They include:
• Jay Tabor is a mergers-and-acquisitions and private equity transfers attorney who joined Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Dallas as a partner on Oct. 14. Tabor says he is excited to bring his practice to Gibson Dunn because of the firm’s national and international network of offices and the caliber of the transactional practice in Dallas.
He says Dallas partner Jeff Chapman, a co-chair of the firm’s mergers-and-acquisitions practice group, is a longtime mentor and friend. Tabor declines to identify his clients.
• Four partners from the Houston office — John Strasburger, Melanie Gray, Lydia Protopapas and Jason Billeck — joined Winston & Strawn in Houston. They do litigation and bankruptcy work. Strasburger and Billeck made the move on Oct. 8, Gray on Oct. 15 and Protopapas on Oct. 16.
Strasburger says the group considered several opportunities, but Winston & Strawn is a good fit.
“It was a respected legal brand with a growing Houston presence,” Strasburger says, adding that John Keville, managing partner of the firm’s Houston office, is a longtime friend.
As to the timing of their departure, Strasburger says, “It became clear to us by the actions of Weil’s management over the past few months that they are not committed to a practice in Texas, particularly litigation.” He declines to identify clients they brought with them to Winston & Strawn.
• Former Weil partner Nicolas Barzoukas, a patent litigator, joined Baker Botts as a partner in Houston on Sept. 30. Barzoukas says he moved to Baker Botts because he wanted to practice at a firm in Texas that was “on the offense” in developing the intellectual property practice.
He says he’s excited to work at the same firm again with IP partner Paul Morico of Houston, a friend from their time at the former Houston IP specialty firm Arnold, White & Durkee.
Barzoukas says he chose to leave, around the same time as many of his Weil Texas colleagues, because of questions about Weil’s commitment to offices outside of New York. He says his clients include Merck.