As Sedgwick moves to shut down its operations, firm chairman Michael Healy has found a new home at Shook, Hardy & Bacon in San Francisco.
Healy is joining his new firm, known for its prowess in products liability work, as a partner in its products liability and business litigation group, along with former Sedgwick partner Wayne Wolff and associate Emily Weissenberger.
All three lawyers will be based in San Francisco, where Shook Hardy has had an office since 1998. Wolff will be of counsel at his new firm, which last year elected Madeleine McDonough as its first female leader.
Healy, who first joined Sedgwick in 1980, said that his decision to join the Kansas City, Missouri-based Am Law 100 firm was predicated on its prowess and pre-eminence in the products liability space.
For years, he worked alongside Shook Hardy representing the same clients in various matters, as well as some of the practice leaders, including global products liability chair Walter Cofer and pharmaceutical and medical device litigation division chair Alicia Donahue. So when it came time to determine his next steps, Healy said that Shook Hardy seemed like the obvious choice.
“The clients I deal with have a recognition and appreciation of the strong bench of trial attorneys and analyst teams at Shook Hardy,” said Healy, adding that he anticipates that his move will be a seamless transition for many of his clients.
Healy, who was elected chair of Sedgwick in 2015, steered the firm through its most difficult moments that ultimately resulted in its dissolution this month. A series of high-profile defections last year saw Sedgwick lose nearly 40 percent of its head count, as gross revenue plunged 20 percent.
In November, after a failed last-ditch attempt to salvage the San Francisco-based Am Law 200 firm through a merger with U.K.-based Clyde & Co, Sedgwick announced that it would wind down its operations. As of Wednesday, the homepage of the firm’s website was emblazoned with a lengthy farewell message to clients, lawyers, staffers and their families.
Since that announcement more than a month ago, several large groups of Sedgwick lawyers and staffers have found new homes. Duane Morris announced in late November that it would take on a 10-lawyer team in San Francisco from Sedgwick led by employment practice co-chairs James Brown and Robert Eassa. (Duane Morris, which earlier this week absorbed the bulk of an insurance boutique, said Wednesday that it would also take on Sedgwick litigation partners Michael Fox and Robert Kum in San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively.)
In early December, Clyde & Co shook off its scuttled tie-up talks with Sedgwick and picked up partners Bruce Celebrezze and Alexander Potente in San Francisco, both of whom were the first of what could eventually emerge as an 80-strong group of lawyers and staffers leaving Sedgwick for the fast-growing British firm. Asked about the demise of Sedgwick, Healy said he had only fond memories of the 85-year-old firm.
“It was a terrific firm and I had a really rewarding professional experience there and made lifelong friends, even if they’re at a different firm [now],” said Healy, adding that nearly every partner and lawyer at Sedgwick managed to find a position they liked before the end of 2017. (The American Lawyer reported this week on the death of the law firm bankruptcy.)
Healy, Wolff and Weissenberger’s decision to join Shook Hardy also comes at a time when the firm is in “growth mode,” said McDonough, Shook Hardy’s newly installed chair.
Shook Hardy is looking to deepen and strengthen its core base practices in products liability, commercial litigation, intellectual property and environmental litigation, but also wants to introduce its clients to its other capabilities.
Part of that growth plan is recruiting strategic lateral partners in Chicago, Houston and Washington, D.C., as well as California, where Healy and his group have come aboard.
“He just works seamlessly with our team,” McDonough said.
Other firms hiring this week from Sedgwick include Akerman and Goldberg Segalla, the latter of which opened its first West Coast office in Los Angeles.