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What does a large-firm trusts and estates partner do if his client base begins to balk at increasingly high billing rates? If you are 19-year Dechert veteran Kevin Gilboy, you leave the firm and join two old friends at a venerable trusts and estates boutique. Effective July 1, Gilboy became a name partner at Teeters Harvey & Gilboy, formally known as Teeters & Harvey. Gilboy said the decision came down to Dechert’s focus on billing rates. He said his rate was $425 per hour at the time of his departure, which he said was quite low for a Dechert partner. “There was some pressure to raise my rates, and that really narrows the market,” Gilboy said. “My [client base] is a mix of established wealth and entrepreneurs. And it had become increasingly difficult to ask them to accept those rates.” Gilboy said the private client group at Dechert has two focus areas of representation. First, there is a narrow group of traditional trusts and estates clients that can afford to pay the rates. Then there is handling the estates work for the clients of other Dechert lawyers, usually corporate executives. The latter, which helps cement the relationship between client and firm, is useful but not appreciated on a firmwide level because it is not exceptionally profitable, Gilboy said. Dechert chairman Barton Winokur said Gilboy’s decision came down to what kind of clients he wanted to represent and what kind of work he wanted to do for them. “If you are a really good fish in a big pond, you still might prefer being a good fish in a smaller pond,” Winokur said. “Our pond is becoming bigger and more challenging, and different people have different levels of appetite for it.” Gilboy said he approached old friends Ralph Teeters and Edmund “Chip” Harvey a few months back at a meeting of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s probate section executive committee — of which all three are longstanding members. Teeters said the first conversation was generic in nature, where Gilboy asked about life in a boutique. The conversation then graduated to the possibility of Gilboy joining the firm, which had been a two-man operation since 1984. “I almost feel that I’m intervening in a marriage,” Gilboy said. “But I’ve been gratified that most of my clients have had a good response to my move, even though there are some that prefer having the services of a large firm [and will most likely stay with Dechert]. It will take some time to establish myself here. I’ll be just fine, even if I’m not earning as much as I did at Dechert. But I think most of my clients will be happy [with the billing rate structure].” Teeters and Harvey also are refugees from large firms: Teeters came from Reed Smith and Harvey from Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll. Teeters said the longtime duo had no reservations about welcoming a third partner. “It would be difficult with many people, but with Kevin it was so easy,” Teeters said. “We’ve known each other for a long time, and he’s so skilled at his craft. I feel fortunate to work with him.” Teeters said Gilboy adds a different dimension — specifically representation of closely held businesses. He added that Gilboy would have to bring down his billing rates to fit in with the firm but that some small-business clients might require a higher-than-normal rate. “In a small-firm atmosphere, there’s some flexibility with that,” Teeters said. Winokur said Dechert still sees its private client practice as an important one for the firm’s strategic plan. The practice is led by partner Arthur Solmssen Jr. and includes two other Philadelphia-based partners, a New York-based partner and two other partners that split time between private client and tax work. There are also several associates in the group, none of whom will be joining Gilboy. Gilboy graduated from Duke University Law School in 1979 and immediately took a job in Reed Smith’s Pittsburgh office. He joined Dechert in 1984 and became an equity partner in 1988 and was the second-highest-ranking member of the private client group at the time of his departure. Gilboy’s departure comes at a time when many large firms are evaluating their trusts and estates practice. Several high-profile trusts and estates lawyers have left large firms in favor of boutiques. Martin Heckscher left Duane Morris in the late 1990s to form Heckscher Teillon Terrill & Sager in West Conshohocken. Chris Gadsden, Pam Schneider and Steve Woodward, considered the heart of Drinker Biddle & Reath’s trusts and estates practice, left two years ago to form their own firm.

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