Sidley Austin seems poised to become the latest Am Law 100 firm to exit the trusts and estates space for high net worth individuals as Loeb & Loeb, a well-known firm in that practice area, has absorbed the bulk of its lawyers in Chicago.
A six-lawyer group of trusts and estates lawyers have left Sidley’s office in the Windy City to join Loeb & Loeb in a mass lateral move that involves the former leader of Sidley’s wealth management practice.
Jordan Klein, a 28-year Sidley alum who headed the firm’s national trusts and estates group, is among those leaving the firm for Loeb & Loeb, along with four other partners led by James Hitzeman, Kathleen O’Hagan Scallan, Julie Olenn and Camille Lu, as well as associate Ryan Court.
The additions bolster an already strong trusts and estates practice at Loeb & Loeb, which features 52 lawyers, 34 of them partners. The new additions will be the first trusts and estates lawyers in Loeb & Loeb’s nearly 40 lawyer Chicago office.
Sidley’s wealth management or trust and estates practice, meanwhile, has been reduced to two lawyers, according to the firm’s website. Last month, Chicago-based trusts and estates partner Susan Bart bolted the Sidley partnership for Schiff Hardin. (Bart’s move came a month after Sidley received a favorable Illinois appellate ruling in a malpractice suit against Bart and the firm.)
Klein said his departure from Sidley was “done very amicably” following “frank” discussions with the firm about the best place to grow the practice. He said trusts and estates “would not be much of a practice going forward” at Sidley.
“Obviously we concluded it was not Sidley,” Klein said. “I was there 28 years, so I don’t have a lot of wanderlust.”
A Sidley spokeswoman did not return a request for comment about the departures or the firm’s broader strategy for its trusts and estates group.
Klein said his group was attracted to Loeb & Loeb because of the latter’s broad practice in the trusts and estates realm and its commitment to growing that practice, which the firm has focused on for decades. When Debevoise & Plimpton left the private client space in 2013, Loeb & Loeb scooped up trusts and estates partner Jonathan Rikoon in New York.
At Sidley, Klein’s clients included 20 well-known, Chicago-area families, while Scallan represented a number of hedge fund owners and Hitzeman handled trusts and estates litigation. The group also specializes in advising financial institutions in their role as fiduciaries for trusts.
“It is, thank God, a pretty robust practice,” Klein said. “And also, thank God, clients are following us almost to a person with their business. It’s a very relationship-driven business and that’s worked out well for us.”
Sidley would not be the first large firm to shift its attention away from trusts and estates work in recent years. Besides Debevoise, other firms like Weil, Gotshal & Manges and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr have all moved out of the practice area. But other firms have invested in the area as wealth in America continues to concentrate among the country’s highest earners.
Jenner & Block launched a wealth management practice last year by hiring partners from Mayer Brown and Seyfarth Shaw. Jenner & Block made the move as an added service to its wealth private clients, such as Chicago’s Crown family, which made its fortune largely through an ownership stake in military contractor General Dynamics Corp., another Jenner & Block client. In June, the firm hired another Mayer Brown partner, Emily Petrovic Li, for its growing wealth management group.
Douglas Masters, a prominent intellectual property lawyer and managing partner of Loeb & Loeb’s Chicago office, said the office was eager to add trusts and estates lawyers to compliment the firm’s broader focus in the area.
“It’s to our advantage to some extent that every firm doesn’t want to maintain a focus on” trusts and estates,” Masters said. “We can be very supportive and attractive for people at the high end of the practice like Jordan.”