Baker McKenzie joined a brisk lateral market for trusts and estates lawyers in 2017 by announcing Thursday its addition of two partners from Greenberg Traurig in Chicago.
Debra “Deb” Doyle and John “Jack” Newlin, who joined Greenberg Traurig in early 2014 after leaving Jenner & Block, are making the move to Baker McKenzie, which a week ago announced that its gross revenue had climbed to a record high of $2.67 billion in fiscal 2016-17.
“This opportunity and the platform that [Baker McKenzie has] really wasn’t something we could ignore,” Newlin said.
Newlin and Doyle work with clients such as senior corporate executives, entrepreneurs and their families on wealth planning and complex trusts and estate matters, including business succession planning. They also advise on asset protection, forming and operating investment entities, as well as charitable foundations and trusts.
The duo is looking to capitalize on Baker McKenzie’s national and international footprint—the global legal giant was recently touted as having the top law firm brand in Asia—and its tax capabilities that can provide added support to their clients, none of whom they would identify.
“There were just so many things about Baker and the opportunity that it would offer us that we couldn’t ignore,” Doyle said. “And as we learned more and more, [it] was a no brainer.”
Doyle and Newlin have been working together for 18 years, having started at Chicago’s Altheimer & Gray before leaving that firm upon its dissolution in 2003 for Jenner & Block. A decade later, the two lawyers and Jenner & Block’s private client chair John Buttita joined Greenberg Traurig in a move that local legal publication the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin reported at the time brought roughly 500 clients to the firm.
Buttita headed the trusts and estates practice at Greenberg Traurig until leaving the firm in early 2016 to start his own shop in the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook, Illinois. Buttita did not immediately return a request for comment about his Big Law exit. Baker McKenzie’s two new partners said they make a great team.
“Deb and I work very collaboratively,” Newlin said. “We complement each other well and that kind of team approach is what we’re seeing at Baker and that’s why it was a good fit.”
Newlin (pictured right) and Doyle said they are hoping to build a group that can collaborate across all offices and bring their expertise in domestic planning to the international platform offered by Baker McKenzie, which has offices in 47 countries and is the world’s largest firm by attorney head count. (Dentons is in a category by itself.)
In a statement, Baker McKenzie’s North America tax practice chair Melinda Phelan said the firm’s clients would benefit from Doyle and Newlin’s expertise, adding that the firm was “focused on further enhancing our capabilities to better serve our clients’ business interests, both in cross-border and U.S. domestic planning.”
In recent years, trusts and estates lawyers have been on the move at Am Law 100 firms, with some firms choosing to get out of the practice area and focus on more higher-margin work. But as America’s wealth continues to concentrate among a select few high-earners, other firms such as Jenner & Block and Loeb & Loeb have been eager to ramp up their private client offerings.
On Thursday, Chicago-based Katten Muchin Rosenman announced that it had brought back Kathryn von Matthiessen as a trusts and estates partner New York. She left the firm in 2013 to join Miami’s Cantor & Webb, most of which has since been folded into local shop Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod, partly as a result of the sudden death late last year of former name partner Steven Cantor.
As for Baker McKenzie, the firm has also been busy picking up new partners, most recently adding government enforcement and energy litigator C. Thomas Kruse from Baker & Hostetler in Houston and hiring three new partners in London from three different firms. Baker McKenzie did see its North America tax head Thomas Linguanti, who once represented pro golfer Sergio Garcia, decamp this week for Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in Chicago.