The Churn
(Illustration by Paul Dilakian)

Ten former Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps attorneys based in Southern California who have been with McKenna Long & Aldrdge since those two firms merged roughly two years ago are moving en masse.

Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton said Monday it has added two McKenna Long real estate attorneys—NANCY SCULL and DAVID HYMER—as partners in its San Diego office, while also bringing aboard an eight-partner team of McKenna Long insurance litigation partners. That group, which will bolster Sheppard Mullin’s insurance and business trial practices, includes PETER KLEE, RONALD GETCHEY, CHARLES DANAHER, JOHN BROOKS, NATHAN ARRINGTON, R. RANDAL CRISPEN, MARC FELDMAN and THEONA ZHORDANIA. (Seven of the eight are based in San Diego, while Zhordania will join Sheppard Mullin’s Los Angeles office.)

Scull and Hymer join a Sheppard Mullin real estate, land use and environmental practice that already includes partner Tony Toranto, a fellow McKenna Long and Luce Forward alum who moved over two years ago and splits his time between the Del Mar and San Francisco offices. Scull and Hymer handle a variety of real estate transactions and also advise clients on various stages of project development.

The insurance litigation group is led by Klee, who defends insurance companies in both individual and class actions concerning such issues as bad faith, fraud and unfair competition claims.

A McKenna Long spokeswoman acknowledged the departures in firm statement sent to The Am Law Daily: “These lawyers made important contributions to the growth of the legacy Luce Forward firm and we wish them well in this next phase of their practices. [McKenna Long] is a robust national firm. The departures reflect a small percent shift in the number of McKenna’s attorneys in our San Diego region. We continue to have strong marketplace history and diverse strengths in litigation, government contracts, government affairs, real estate, private client services and corporate law. We are highly committed to the San Diego market. We continue to grow our California presence and build our position in many client sectors.”

As The Am Law Daily has previously reported, Luce Forward suffered from a sharp drop in gross revenue that pushed the firm off The Am Law 200 just before its March 2012 merged with McKenna Long. In the months before the merger was finalized, a number of Luce Forward partners moved to new firms, including former white-collar defense head Patrick Swan Jr., who is now at Jones Day.

McKenna Long went on to post the largest year-over-year gross revenue increase in The Am Law 100 in 2012, increasing 23.4 percent to $345 million.

McKenna Long came close to another merger last fall, when it held talks with Dentons aimed at potentially creating a combined firm with more than 3,100 lawyers around the world. In the end, the deal collapsed in November when McKenna Long management realized that the firm’s partnership did not support joining forces with Dentons.

The Am Law Daily reported in February that Sheppard Mullin saw its profits per equity partner dip 1.6 percent last year, to $1.25 million, as a result of increased head count. The firm’s gross revenue, meanwhile, climbed 6.6 percent, to $466.5 million.

In other Churn news …

DONNA BATES is now of counsel in Blank Rome’s consumer finance group. Based in Princeton, Bates was previously a senior associate attorney specializing in business and finance litigation at Reed Smith.

Oil and gas lawyer KEVIN ATKINS has left Vinson & Elkins to join the London office of Chadbourne & Parke as a corporate partner. Atkins focuses his practice on oil and gas transactions in Africa and other emerging markets.

The New York office of Davis Wright Tremaine is expanding with the addition of NADIA DOMBROWSKI as a partner. Dombrowski, who most recently served as a senior vice president at Bank of America, will be a part of the firm’s payments practice.

Debevoise & Plimpton has added two attorneys as counsel in its New York office. ANDREW GOLDBERG joins the firm from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where he advised financial industry clients as part of that firm’s investment funds practice. And W. DAVID SARRATT is now working in the litigation department at Debevoise after leaving his job as an assistant U.S. attorney in the criminal division in the Eastern District of New York.

JAMES CUNNINGHAM is now a member in Dickinson Wright’s Troy, Mich., office, where he will represent lenders and borrowers in commercial loan transactions while also advising on aspects of corporate transactions and commercial mortgage loans. Cunningham arrives from Warner Norcross & Judd.

Real estate attorney MITCHEL HILL has left Seyfarth Shaw to join the New York office of Fox Rothschild as a partner. Hill advises clients on commercial real estate transactions, with a focus on multifamily and health care–related properties.

Haynes and Boone is adding three finance attorneys from K&L Gates in two offices. The trio is led by New York–based partner STEVEN EPSTEIN and Dallas-based partner JAVIER MARTINEZ, who arrive with an associate. Epstein works on complex financings, including those involving energy-related commodities, while Martinez represents borrowers and lenders in secured transactions. Meanwhile, Haynes and Boone also recently announced the addition of ANTHONY PIEROTTI as a real estate and real estate finance partner in the firm’s Orange County, Calif., office. Pierotti arrives from Irell & Manella.

Two real estate finance attorneys have landed in the New York office of Holland & Knight. Partner KATHLEEN FUREY and senior counsel KEVIN GEORGE—both of whom have experience working on commercial loan transactions—come from Robinson & Cole.

JOHN DIMATTEO has left his post as cochair of Willkie Farr & Gallagher’s IP department to join New York–based litigation boutique Holwell Shuster & Goldberg as a partner. The firm was founded in 2012 by four attorneys with ties to Am Law 100 firms. DiMatteo, who is the firm’s first lateral partner hire, often serves as lead trial counsel to large companies in patent litigation before federal courts and the International Trade Commission.

The Minneapolis office of Jackson Lewis is growing with the arrival of former Felhaber Larson litigator BRIAN BENKSTEIN as a shareholder. Benkstein counsels employers on various aspects of workplace disputes, including discrimination claims, workplace safety and noncompete agreements.

K&L Gates recently hired former Vedder Price attorney VIVEK BHATT as a partner in the firm’s capital markets practice. Bhatt, who is based in Chicago, advises clients on asset-backed securities and financial transactions.

CHRISTOPHER HENRY is now a private equity and M&A partner in the New York office of Lowenstein Sandler. Formerly a Ropes & Gray partner, Henry, the latest lateral from The Am Law 100 to bolster Lowenstein’s M&A practice, comes aboard on the heels of former Kirkland & Ellis partner Michael Brosse’s arrival in January.

London-based M&A lawyer STEPHEN WALTERS has joined the London office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius as a partner in the business and finance practice. Walters previously practiced at Bird & Bird, where he often worked on M&A transactions in Europe and in various emerging markets.

O’Melveny & Myers has added a New York–based group of patent litigation partners to its IP and technology practice, as LISA BARONS PENSABENE and MARC PENSABENE (the two are married) are joining the firm with FILKO PRUGO. Lisa Pensabene will become firmwide head of life sciences litigation at O’Melveny; she and Prugo will both focus on patent litigation involving generic drug approval. Marc Pensabene handles patent litigation involving such technologies as computer hardware and software as well as digital scanners and medical devices. All three attorneys previously practiced at IP firm Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto.

The London office of Steptoe & Johnson welcomes NEIL DOOLEY as a partner in the firm’s commercial litigation group. Previously with Hogan Lovells, Dooley recently helped client Otkritie Financial Corporation win $150 million in damages in U.K. litigation after the Russian bank was defrauded by some of its former employees.

Weil, Gotshal & Manges has bolstered its European restructuring practice with the addition of ANDREW WILKINSON as a partner in London. A former attorney at Clifford Chance and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, Wilkinson most recently served as cohead of Goldman Sachs’ European restructuring group.

Litigator GARY PANCER is now a partner in the Los Angeles office of Wilson Elser, where he will focus on health care–related cases such as managed care litigation and consumer disputes. Pancer arrives from Sedgwick.

The Churn is compiled from law firm releases and announcement. Moves based on our own reporting will note this. Please send all announcements and news releases to