Reed Smith announced Wednesday that it has hired a three-partner tax team from Dentons led by David Hryck, who has handled charitable work for celebrities such as musician Wyclef Jean and model Petra Nemcova, while Crowell & Moring picked up a pair of government contracts partners from McKenna Long & Aldridge.
The lateral moves come as McKenna Long and Dentons continue to pursue a potential combination. As first reported by The Am Law Daily last week, the Am Law 100 firms are discussing a merger that could create a 3,100-lawyer entity that would be the world’s third-largest firm by attorney head count.
Reed Smith, which last month poached Dentons energy and natural resources partner Jonathan Solomon in London, said in a statement that Hryck is joining the firm along with partners Jeffrey Korenblatt and David Mason, counsel Sheila Geraghty, and transfer pricing economist Theodore van Stephoudt.
Hryck, who declined to comment about his former firm’s merger talks, calls Reed Smith “a very unique place as far as law firms go,” lauding the Am Law 100 firm with Pittsburgh roots for its global platform and commitment to a variety of practice areas. According to The American Lawyer‘s most recent Am Law 100 rankings, Reed Smith had $1 billion in gross revenue and profits per partner of $1.1 million last year, while Dentons predecessor firm SNR Denton had gross revenue of $710.5 million and profits per partner of $785,000.
Hryck, Korenblatt, Mason, and Geraghty left DLA Piper in February 2012 to join SNR Denton, which made Hryck the U.S. head of its international tax practice. Van Stephoudt, who also worked at DLA at one point, joined SNR Denton in March 2012 from Squire Sanders. Hryck, Mason, Geraghty, and van Stephoudt will work out of New York, while Korenblatt will be based in Reed Smith’s office in Washington, D.C.
Hryck says his group represents clients on cross-border corporate and tax matters in the fashion, retail, and entertainment space, including “high-net-worth individuals.”
One of those clients is Jean, a Grammy Award-winning recording artist whose ties to Hryck led him to perform live at DLA’s New York office three years ago, according to our previous reports. Hryck confirmed Wednesday that he still represents Jean—tax records show both he and Mason once served as board members for the singer’s now-defunct Haitian charity—but declined to discuss the client relationship. (Jean’s charity, which has drawn criticism over its Haitian earthquake relief efforts, is now mired in legal troubles.)
Hryck met Jean through Nemcova, another of his high-profile clients. The newly minted Reed Smith partner represents the model, philanthropist, and prominent tsunami survivor’s Happy Hearts Fund and serves as the organization’s secretary. Hryck also advises the Chicago-based Lifeline Humanitarian Organization, a nonprofit run by Prince Alexander and Princess Katherine of Serbia.
Hryck—a world fellow of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award for Excellence Fund, which was founded by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh—says he expects all his clients to accompany him to his new firm. He declined to comment on the name of the legal recruiter he worked with in making the move.
For Reed Smith, Wednesday’s partner hires follow closely on the heels of last week’s surprise announcement that longtime firm chairman and global managing partner Gregory Jordan is leaving to become general counsel and head of regulatory and government affairs at client PNC Financial Services. Jordan was immediately succeeded by Alexander “Sandy” Thomas, a Reed Smith litigation partner based in Washington, D.C.
As it happens, Dentons saw its former CEO Howard Morris—the former head of British firm Denton Wilde Sapte, whose merger with Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal in 2010 created SNR Denton—depart last month. Morris had been serving as chief integration and client development partner for Dentons after its myriad combinations, recently returning to the firm’s London office from New York, according to U.K. publication Legal Week.
Like many firms in the midst of merger talks, Dentons, which is structured as a Swiss verein and recently opened offices in Houston and Kazakhstan, has seen a handful of partners decamp in recent weeks.
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman added Dentons patent partner Qian Huang in Northern Virginia and structured finance and transactional partner Peter Morgan in New York last month. (Morgan joined predecessor firm Sonnenschein in early 2009 after it picked up more than 100 lawyers from the dissolving Thacher Proffitt & Wood.)
Also last month, Jones Day added former Dentons financial regulatory partner Lisa Ledbetter in Washington, D.C., a little more than a year after she joined SNR Denton after spending 13 years at Freddie Mac. British firm SJ Berwin—which itself is poised to join forces on November 1 with Asia-Pacific legal giant King & Wood Mallesons—snagged Dentons international arbitration partner Paul Stothard last month in London. And DLA added Dentons real estate partner Antoine Mercier in Paris, according to Legal Week.
Crowell & Moring, which last month hired Dentons corporate finance partner Sahra Dalfen and commercial real estate partner Jody Saltzman in New York, has now turned its attention to poaching from McKenna Long. (Both Dalfen and Saltzman previously worked at Salans, which was absorbed into Dentons earlier this year as part of the three-way tie-up that also involved Canada’s Fraser Milner Casgrain.)
McKenna Long government contracts partners Gail Zirkelbach and David Ginsberg in Los Angeles have left the firm for Crowell, according to an announcement issued by their new firm Wednesday. The two come aboard two weeks after Crowell brought on government contracts partner Evan Wolff in Washington, D.C., from Hunton & Williams, where he headed that firm’s homeland security practice after being promoted to partner in 2010.
Zirkelbach, a former McKenna Long associate, rejoined the firm in 2009 after leaving the Denver office of Jackson Kelly, where she was a partner. Ginsberg joined McKenna Long in 2005 and made partner on January 1 of this year. Both say that leaving McKenna Long is bittersweet, but that they are eager to embrace the opportunities awaiting them at their new firm.
“Crowell has a strong white-collar criminal defense practice that we can really benefit from,” says Zirkelbach, who along with Ginsberg frequently advises clients on internal investigations and building compliance and ethics programs.
Both lawyers claim to know little about McKenna Long’s merger talks with Dentons, and Zirkelbach adds that she and Ginsberg didn’t use a legal recruiter for their move to Crowell and relied instead on their previous relationships with various lawyers at the firm. “The government contracts community is a small one,” she says.
Zirkelbach declined to identify specific clients that she and Ginsberg—who calls his new firm a “top-tier national brand”—intend to bring with them to Crowell, although she does expect those “relationships to continue.”
The biggest issue facing the duo’s clients at the moment is the ongoing federal government shutdown, which has cut down on the business many contractors have been counting on. Zirkelbach says most of the companies she represents are taking a “wait-and-see” approach to the closure, noting that the U.S. Department of Defense’s recall this week of furloughed contract workers has softened the blow somewhat.
Crowell and McKenna Long recorded nearly identical gross revenue and profits per partner figures last year, according to The American Lawyer‘s annual Am Law 100 rankings. McKenna Long’s profits per partner were $930,000, compared to Crowell’s $925,000 figure, while the latter had $349.5 million in gross revenue, compared to the $345 million taken in by McKenna Long.