On June 30, securities litigator James Benedict, 66, walked out of his office at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy for the last time as a partner and caught a plane to Vail, Colorado, to begin the next chapter of his life.

Benedict, who had been responsible annually for $35 million to $40 million in billings defending investment advisers in their biggest lawsuits, had been planning for this day since 2004. That’s when he, then Clifford Chance’s litigation head, convinced a first-year partner, Sean Murphy, to join him in a move to Milbank with the understanding that Murphy would eventually take the reins of the practice, then $10 million to $15 million. Over the past 12 years, Benedict has made good on that promise: In January, Murphy, 46, first-chaired the defense for insurer Axa Financial Inc. in an excessive-fee derivative claim involving $1 billion in investment advisory fees, the first of several upcoming trials defending new clients that the two originated together.

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