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Three months after Weil, Gotshal & Manges announced that it was thinning its associate ranks and scaling back its complex litigation practice, six of its litigation partners and two private equity partners in Dallas are defecting to Sidley Austin.

Sidley executive committee chair Carter Phillips says the new hires, who will join the firm's Dallas office later this month, are part of an effort to expand its Dallas practice beyond its current focus on intellectual property. "We had been thinking seriously about whether to keep Dallas as a purely intellectual property office, and this hire presented a perfect opportunity to have a more balanced office," Phillips says, adding that discussions with the group began less than a month ago.

The team is led by partners YVETTE OSTOLAZA, a cohead of Weil's complex commercial litigation practice and management committee member, and ANGELA FONTANA, a cohead of Weil's banking and finance practice. At Sidley, Ostolaza will be a global coordinator of its complex commercial litigation practice and is slated to become the Dallas office managing partner when current office head James Bradley steps down in January 2014, according to the Sidley release. Fontana will be a global coordinator of Sidley's private equity practice.

The mass hire also includes new complex commercial litigation partners PENNY REID, VANCE BEAGLES, ANGELA ZAMBRANO, YOLANDA GARCIA, and MICHELLE HARTMANN, and new private equity and global finance partner KELLY DYBALA. All of the partners are currently still at Weil.

For Weil, the departures come after a series of shake-ups at the firm. In June, Weil announced that it planned to lay off 60 associates and 110 staff members, as well as cut the compensation of about 10 percent of its 334 partners. In a speech to the partnership and in an emailed memo distributed firmwide, Barry Wolf, the executive partner and chair of Weil's management committee, said that as part of the changes the firm was looking to scale back its complex commercial litigation practice, according to our past reports.

Wolf also said Weil "will be deemphasizing" its Houston office, its only location in Texas outside of Dallas, sibling publication Texas Lawyer reported at the time. Sidley's Phillips says that while he cannot speak for the new partners, "the whole idea that a firm would significantly downplay one Texas office gives serious concern about the other Texas office."

In a statement, a Weil spokesman said, "Weil continues to have a strong presence in Texas in key practice areas that are a good strategic fit for our clients and our firm."

Earlier this month, Weil lost another partner in Dallas, M&A and private equity lawyer Michael Saslaw, who left for Vinson & Elkins.

Phillips says he anticipates that associates—and clients—may follow the group from Weil to Sidley, though nothing is definite yet. When Sidley hired 11 senior lawyers from Bingham McCutchen in April, Phillips says, the total number of Bingham lawyers to join the firm eventually rose to 30. Texas Lawyer has more on the Sidley hires.

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