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Rich Men, Poor Associates? Lawyers at McKee Nelson may no longer be the richest guys in town (as Legal Times dubbed them not long ago). The high-end tax and capital markets shop has taken a big hit in recent months, and you can blame the troubled structured finance market — and more specifically, mortgage-backed securitizations. As a result of slow workflow, the firm is scrambling to move associates into other practice areas — primarily litigation and tax — says name partner William Nelson. So far, Nelson says, six associates of the roughly 50 associates in its securities and structured finance practice have moved. The firm has also offered associates other options, such as working for London-based Ashurst, with whom it has an alliance, for a year or two; taking a sabbatical; or helping with recruiting. “We wanted to be realistic with our people and let them know we don’t know where this is going,” says Nelson. Industry watchers say the credit swoon is slowing practices across Washington — not to mention New York. But for McKee Nelson, where 90 of the firm’s roughly 110 lawyers (split about evenly between offices in New York and Washington) are involved in structured finance, the impact is especially hard. The firm is counting on its litigation practice picking up some of the slack. Litigation is an area that McKee Nelson had previously shied away from, for fear of possible client conflicts. That changed in February, when star litigator Jeffrey Smith joined the New York office from King & Spalding. That practice group might offer refuge for some associates who need to move out of securitization. “Everyone who’s here will have a job,” says Nelson. “But some of them may decide they want to take us up on other options.” So far Washington recruiters say they aren’t seeing McKee Nelson r�sum�s flying out of the firm. But New York recruiters are hearing from McKee Nelson associates looking for a lifeline — an indication that the firm’s more profitable office is on shaky financial footing. “It’s hard to put these lawyers in another firm because it’s not a hot practice area,” says Dan Binstock, a recruiter with BCG Attorney Search. “They first need to retool themselves into more general corporate associates.” Nelson says that the firm’s other practices are doing better — which is a relative term, considering all structured finance practices are experiencing a slowdown — and notes that it recently lured Alice Yurke to its New York office from Morrison & Foerster. Yurke focuses on structured hedge fund transactions. Nelson says he has not told partners that profits will be down this year. He says a strong seven-month opening to the fiscal year has been followed by what figures to be a very soft five-month close. He adds that the firm’s “rainy-day fund” may well be tapped. “I think it’s fair to say we’re glad we have some money put aside,” says Nelson.
Fresh Salmons Former Assistant Solicitor General David Salmons is headed to Bingham McCutchen. It’s something of a catch for the Boston-based firm. In the spirit of Washington’s constantly revolving door, Salmons was a lawyer in the appellate and constitutional law practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher before joining the Solicitor General’s Office. Bingham’s partnership must still formally approve the hire.
The Insomniac Lawyer The newly formed Dewey & LeBoeuf has only just set sail, but Ronald Liebman, previously a partner in Patton Boggs’ Washington office, is happy to be on board. “I don’t exactly have my sea legs, but the firm seems to be running like one very efficient, 1,400-lawyer law firm,” he says. Liebman has been a senior litigation partner at Dewey & LeBoeuf for two weeks after 26 years with Patton Boggs. He says he was not actively pursuing a career change. “I wasn’t looking at all. I was approached by them,” he says. “I became very interested the more time I spent with them. Finally, I made the decision that this was an opportunity that I really wanted to do.” Dewey & LeBoeuf was borne of the Oct. 1 merger of Dewey Ballantine and LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae. In a press release, the firm’s chairman, Steven Davis, said the litigation practice there has seen “tremendous growth.” Litigators B. Donovan Picard and Edward Rowe also recently joined from Hunton & Williams. For Liebman, the deal-closer was Dewey & LeBoeuf’s international reach. The firm has offices on four continents. “I have done, and do, a lot of work in the Middle East,” says Liebman, who focuses on international disputes, commercial litigation, and some white-collar criminal work. He has also written several books in his spare time. The most recent, a novel titled Death by Rodrigo, is about two New Jersey criminal defense lawyers and their drug-lord client. “If you don’t sleep, it’s amazing what you can do,” he says. Patton Boggs’ managing partner, Stuart Pape, says he was sorry to see Liebman go but wishes him well.
Robbins Raises Recruits Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck & Untereiner has tacked a sixth moniker on its wall, thanks to landing a recent recruit from fellow firm tongue-twister Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. Commerical litigator Richard Sauber joined the D.C. firm as a name partner on Sept. 17, requiring one tall order of business card reprints. “My mother always thought I was a name partner, and I guess I just got tired of trying to convince her that my professional name was Jacobson,” jokes Sauber. Kidding aside, he says that after 23 years at Fried, Frank, he “wanted to try something that was a little bit more entrepreneurial.” The fact that he had previously worked with Robbins, Russell founding partner Larry Robbins made the choice easier. Sauber, who was co-chairman of Fried, Frank’s litigation group, brought litigation partner Michael Waldman with him. He says he also brought over most of his clients, including Northrop Grumman Corp. and Jacobs Engineering. Sauber focuses on internal investigations and criminal and civil fraud litigation. He says Waldman has worked with him almost since the day he arrived at Fried, Frank. Through a spokesperson, Elliot Polebaum, co-chair of Fried, Frank’s D.C. litigation group, said it is firm policy not to comment on attorney departures.
Keeping Score is Legal Times ‘ weekly column devoted to legal business. Got a tip? Contact Senior Editor Douglas McCollam.

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