X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
As he departed his flight at San Francisco International Airport on Friday, Tower Snow Jr. was greeted by a messenger with a packet of papers containing a simple — and grim — message: He had been banished by a vote of his peers from Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison. Access to his e-mail and his office had been shut down. Calls to his voice mail were met with a recording, “Tower Snow is no longer with Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison.” It was an almost operatic conclusion of an era at Brobeck, and likely a bitter blow for one of the most visible lawyers of the Silicon Valley boom. Just seven months ago, Snow was chairman of Brobeck. Now he is one of a tiny handful of partners ever to have been ousted from the firm. Snow isn’t saying much yet about the episode. In a phone call to The Recorder, he said he had been travelling and was “not in the position to talk to anybody for reasons that will become self-evident in the coming days.” Whether that means Snow is on the verge of a deal with another firm or about to file suit against his former colleagues is unclear. What is coming to light is the anger and turmoil that has gripped the Brobeck partnership in recent days. Snow’s ouster capped a week of big-firm politics that played out very publicly and in very nasty terms. The vote came after a deal — apparently engineered by Snow — that would have brought him and dozens of other Brobeck lawyers to London-based Clifford Chance. But negotiations fell apart last week, Clifford Chance said, leaving Snow exposed to the vitriol of many of his Brobeck partners. Richard Parker, Brobeck’s firmwide managing partner, said Brobeck resorted to an airport rendezvous to deliver its message because Snow had not returned partners’ repeated calls and e-mails saying they wanted to talk. “I understand now that he was returning from a trip to London, which is ironic,” said Parker, who is based in San Diego. “We got word to him immediately.” Anger over the Clifford Chance deal had been building throughout last week, Parker said, and by Thursday had reached a boiling point. He said the firm left Snow a message to join the policy committee via conference call on Friday morning. “He did not call into that meeting,” Parker said. Parker said discussion of Snow’s ouster did not start at that meeting, but was “something that was a possibility throughout.” Cutting ties with the ex-chairman, he said, had been proposed by “partners from all over the firm” not just members of the policy committee. But Brobeck has never been shy about bringing in laterals. The firm has a long history of luring key groups of partners away from competitors. Two years ago, six prominent IP attorneys left L.A.-based Lyon & Lyon’s San Diego office for Brobeck, causing a financial drain on an office that had been a profit center for Lyon. And the now-defunct Santa Monica, Calif., boutique Dickson, Carlson & Campillo sued Brobeck after partners Debra Pole and William Fitzgerald jumped to the firm and took millions in breast implant litigation with them. Dickson accused the two partners of breaching their fiduciary duty and Brobeck of economic interference and conspiracy to interfere. Parker contends that Snow’s case is different because Snow “affirmatively went out and endeavored to strike a deal with another firm.” He also said not all of the lawyers who were being shopped to Clifford Chance as part of the deal had been informed of Snow’s efforts, and that fact enraged a number of partners. However, attorneys said to have been part of the Clifford Chance deal did not return calls for comment to confirm Parker’s assertion. The decision to oust Snow does send a clear message to partners who may have been considering a similar move. “I hope it has a chilling effect on people who are conducting themselves in an inappropriate manner,” Parker said. NO EASY DECISION A number of partners at Brobeck said their decision to vote against Snow was a painful one, and they seemed particularly agitated by the very public nature of his actions. “When somebody does what Tower tried to do, you can’t leave that unanswered,” said William Sullivan, managing partner of the San Diego office and a securities litigator like Snow. “He tried to raid the firm.” Sullivan suggested that Snow, as a former chairman, had a “special relationship” with the firm that should have kept him from going after Brobeck lawyers. Sullivan said Snow’s recruitment efforts backfired, bringing partners together instead of tearing the firm apart. “It’s a unifying event,” Sullivan said. “He is, by his nature, a divisive person.” The anger among Brobeck partners has been palpable — even over the phone. A Los Angeles partner contacted Friday for comment searched through his desk for several minutes to find his partnership agreement so he could quote the exact phrases on how to bring a vote to oust a partner. As he spoke, he angrily rifled pages and said the firm’s financial troubles and internal squabbles were largely Snow’s fault. “This is the guy who put us in the position we are in now. It’s partly his arrogance that has caused the problems we’ve been in, in the past year,” said the partner, who voted for Snow’s ouster. “There’s no question he was responsible for growth in our firm, but the idea that not having succeeded he should go someplace else — and take other people with him — I think that really bothered people.” While Brobeck management said the vote to oust Snow was not a close one, the former chairman still has his fans at the firm — a point made clear by the fact that he had so many partners who were apparently willing to follow him to Clifford Chance. One partner who was opposed to Snow’s ejection said he doesn’t think the firm’s problems “lie with Tower. A change is needed, no doubt about that, but I don’t think this is it.” CONTACTING CLIENTS The events of Friday played out quickly, the firm’s managers said. The policy committee of the firm met in the early morning. The proposal to dump Snow was taken to the operations committee — a group that includes Richard Odom, the firm’s chairman, and Parker. Petitions were then sent to partners to sign. Brobeck’s partnership agreement states that 60 percent of the owners of the firm must give their written assent to get rid of a partner. The word “owners” is key. Not every partner owns the same stake in the firm, and each partner’s vote is weighted according to his or her equity status at the firm. “A level 1 partner has less of a percentage of the vote than, say, a level 9 partner,” said the Los Angeles partner who voted against Snow. That means the actual number of partners who voted for Snow’s ouster may have been below 60 percent. But ownership was concentrated in a way to give Snow’s foes a majority of the votes. Parker said the firm has been in discussions with Snow’s clients — though he said that is something he has not handled personally. Presumably, the firm has contacted Cisco Systems Inc., where Snow was known to have devoted much of his energy while he was chairman. Cisco representatives Monday refused comment on Snow’s departure. Partners who supported Snow’s ouster said they believe the decision will make it clear that they will do what it takes to support the firm — even if that means taking out one of their own. “It’s about time we stand up for the organization,” said John Larson, a longtime partner in the San Francisco office. “We’ve got to stand up for Brobeck.” Senior Writer Renee Deger, Staff Writer Brenda Sandburg and News Editor Candice McFarland contributed to this story.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.