UPDATE, 4/2/2013, 9:40 a.m. EST: Additional details about the 11 lawyers joining Sidley Austin from Bingham McCutchen, including a full list of names, have been added to the second and third paragraphs below.
Three years after joining Bingham McCutchen upon stepping down as FINRA’s enforcement chief, the firm’s securities enforcement practice head Susan Merrill and 10 other Bingham partners are decamping to Sidley Austin in New York.
The New York Times‘s DealBook was first to report the news that the Bingham lawyers were on the move, which was confirmed late Monday to The Am Law Daily by a Bingham spokeswoman, who added that the firm wishes the group well. In a Tuesday press release, Sidley announced the hire of 11 lawyers from Bingham, with 10 joining as partners and one as counsel.
Besides Merrill, the others joining Sidley are Neal Sullivan, the Washington, D.C.–based former head of Bingham’s broker-dealer group; securities regulatory and enforcement defense partner Herbert Janick III, a former general counsel of UBS Financial Services; Boston securities regulatory and enforcement defense partner Robert Buhlman; San Francisco regulatory partner W. Hardy Callcott; New York derivatives partner Kenneth Kopelman; New York regulatory and enforcement partner Gerald Russello; New York securities partner Nader Salehi; Portland, Maine, investigations and enforcement partner Corin Swift; D.C. compliance and enforcement partner Michael Wolk; and Portland securities counsel Eric Seltzer. (The hires come roughly a year after Sidley hired Wendy Lazerson, Bingham’s former labor and employment cochair, as a partner in Palo Alto.)
Sullivan and Janick played key roles in Bingham’s effort to lure Merrill—who spent a decade as a partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell before leaving in 2004—to the firm from FINRA three years ago, according to our previous reports. Neither a call nor an email directed to Merrill’s Bingham office late Monday were immediately returned.
Sidley’s Carter Phillips—a veteran appellate litigator who argued his 100th case before the U.S. Courts of Appeals in December and was designated last April to succeed current firm chair Thomas Cole—declined to comment when reached Monday night by The Am Law Daily. (Cole, a corporate partner in Chicago, will step aside on April 27 to make way for Phillips as sole chair of Sidley under the succession plan announced last year.)
The Sidley raid on Bingham comes as the former copes with a few high-profile departures of its own. Last week, for instance, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati snagged five IP litigation partners from Sidley in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, according to sibling publication The Recorder. Since the beginning of the year, Sidley has also lost litigation partner Ing Loong Yang to Latham & Watkins in Hong Kong, labor and employment partner Steven Catlett to Schiff Hardin in Chicago, and insurance litigation partner Jeffrey Crane to Edwards Wildman Palmer, also in the Windy City, where Sidley has its roots.
Washington, D.C.–based litigation partner Jay Jorgensen left Sidley last year to become the new global chief of compliance at retail giant Wal-Mart, according to sibling publication Corporate Counsel. The D.C. office also lost litigation partner Bradford Berenson, who joined General Electric as its vice president and senior counsel for litigation and legal policy, according to sibling publication The Blog of Legal Times. Another defector, Lee Smolen, the head of Sidley’s real estate practice until last year, recently resurfaced at DLA Piper in Chicago.
Amid the losses, Sidley has also remained active in the lateral hiring market. The firm brought on a handful of partners from the now-defunct Dewey & LeBoeuf in 2012, as well as adding Latham digital media and Internet industry cochair Glenn Nash to serve as the new cohead of its technology transactions practice and former Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman trade and commodities finance practice cohead Alexander Moon.
The early part of 2013 has seen Sidley continue to add to its partner head count.
In March the firm hired former Vinson & Elkins tax partner Timothy Devetski in Houston, former Cooley technology transactions partner Jennifer Coplan in New York, and former King & Spalding M&A partner Mark Thompson, who will split his time between New York and London.
Others joining Sidley this year include Singapore-based investment funds partner Han Ming Ho, who jumped over from Clifford Chance, M&A partner Michael O’Brien, who joined in New York from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, and former Adobe Systems general counsel Karen Cottle, who is now a senior technology counsel in Sidley’s Palo Alto office.
Sidley also brought back former partner Joshua Rovine—previously the general counsel of advisory services at private equity firm The Blackstone Group—as an investment funds partner in New York, and hired trusts and estate partner Andrew Auchincloss—the son of late New York lawyer and writer Louis Auchincloss—in New York from asset management firm AllianceBernstein, where he had headed the wealth management group.
The American Lawyer‘s early reporting on large firm finances shows that Sidley had a solid year in 2012 with gross revenue rising 5 percent, to $1.49 billion, and profits per partner surging 12 percent, to $1.8 million. Those figures were fueled in part by the more than $100 million in fees the firm racked up serving as lead debtor’s counsel in the long-running bankruptcy of client the Tribune Company.
As for Bingham, the firm saw its gross revenue inch up 0.4 percent last year, to $872 million, while its profits per partner fell 1.5 percent, to $1.69 million, according to The American Lawyer‘s preliminary Am Law 100 reporting. Last fall Bingham confirmed plans to consolidate its back-office operations in Lexington, Kentucky. In February the firm announced that COO L. Tracee Whitley would also head to the Bluegrass State, according to our previous reports.
Even before Monday’s losses, Bingham had already seen about 10 partners leave so far this year. Among the departed: litigation partner Geoffrey Aronow, who joined the SEC as its new general counsel, and energy and project finance experts Tara Higgins, Torsten Marshall, and Rafael Galvan, who joined Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in January, according to sibling publication the New York Law Journal.
On the plus side of the ledger, Bingham has picked up corporate partner James Chapman and of counsel Stephen Clinton from Foley & Lardner, as well as transactional partner Michael DiSanto from Dinsmore & Shohl, all of whom joined the firm’s Palo Alto office earlier this month, according to The Recorder.
Additional reporting by Tom Huddleston Jr.