After seeing eight Dallas-based partners jump to Sidley Austin two weeks ago, Weil, Gotshal & Manges is now losing the managing partner of its Houston office and three other partners to Winston & Strawn.
In addition to Houston managing partner John Strasburger, a veteran commercial litigator, the Weil defectors—whose departures were first reported by law360 (subscription required)—include commercial litigation partner Melanie Gray, who served as cochair of Weil’s bankruptcy litigation practice; commercial litigation partner Jason Billeck, and business finance and restructuring partner Lydia Protopapas.
A source familiar with the move, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Am Law Daily Thursday that the four partners will be joining Winston.
In a separate conversation, Baker Botts IP litigation partner Nicolas Barzoukas, who joined the firm Monday from Weil’s Houston office, said he understood that Winston is where the quartet is bound.
None of the lawyers making the move responded to requests for comment, nor did Winston managing partner Tom Fitzgerald; James Hurst, the firm’s litigation department chair; Winston’s Houston managing partner, John Keville; or a firm spokesman.
A Weil spokeswoman declined to comment. The losses of Barzoukas and the Strasburger-led group leave the firm with six partners in Houston.
This week’s defections come some three months after Weil announced it was laying off 60 associates and 110 staffers and would be cutting the compensation paid to roughly 10 percent of its 334 partners. As sibling publication Texas Lawyer reported at the time, Weil executive partner Barry Wolf said the firm would also be scaling back its commercial litigation practice in Houston and Boston.
This is the second batch of Texas-based partners to part ways with Weil in the past two weeks. On September 17, Sidley announced that it had hired an eight-partner Dallas-based group led by Yvette Ostolaza, a member of Weil’s executive committee and cohead of its complex commercial litigation practice, and Angela Fontana, the former cohead of Weil’s banking and finance practice. Ostolaza is set to succeed James Bradley as managing partner of Sidley’s Dallas office when he moves into a senior counsel role in January.
In discussing the group hire when it was announced, Sidley executive committee chair Carter Phillips told The Am Law Daily that while he could not speak for the partners making the move, “The whole idea that a firm would significantly downplay one Texas office raises serious concern about the other Texas office.”
Am Law Daily reporter Sara Randazzo contributed to this story.