Continuing the diaspora of Sedgwick partners that has expanded this month with the firm’s official dissolution, Steptoe & Johnson has added a seven-lawyer team of well-known commercial and class action litigators led by partner Stephanie Sheridan in San Francisco.
Sheridan has a reputation as a first-chair trial lawyer who has represented clients in the retail industry, including DSW Inc., J. Crew Group Inc., Macy’s Inc. and Stein Mart Inc. She will chair Steptoe & Johnson’s retail industry practice and become managing partner of the firm’s roughly 15-lawyer San Francisco office.
At Sedgwick, Sheridan served as the former managing partner of the firm’s home office in San Francisco and chair of its retail and fashion industry practice. In late November, Sedgwick confirmed that it would close its doors in early January, a move that came after months of partner defections and layoffs.
Joining Sheridan in the move to Steptoe & Johnson are partners Anthony Anscombe and Darlene Alt. Carol Brophy will also come aboard as senior counsel, as will former Sedgwick associates Meegan Brooks, Mary Beth Buckley and David Mesa. Anscombe splits time between San Francisco and Chicago, where Alt and Buckley are based. The rest work from the Bay Area, where Sedgwick had its largest and oldest office before the firm began losing partners in waves.
Sheridan and Anscombe said the seven-lawyer group works closely as a team and has a roster of more than 50 clients that include luxury and bargain brands, hotels, restaurants and medical device makers, among other nonretail industry clients.
The new Steptoe & Johnson team has recently focused on defending clients accused of deceptive pricing class actions across the country. They’ve also handled more than 25 cases, which Steptoe Johnson said was more than any other single-firm practice group.
Both Sheridan and Anscombe joined Sedgwick as associates in San Francisco back in October 1988. Anscombe joked that Tuesday was “a little weird,” being his first day at a new job in nearly 30 years.
“Anthony and I are not a unique circumstance at Sedgwick. It had a lot of lifers like us, so it was very unfortunate,” Sheridan said. “We’re definitely trying to look toward the future, though. And I’m not trying to sugarcoat this, but I’ve already had some of my new partners reach out to tell me about new capabilities to much better serve my existing client base. So I’m very much looking forward to being able to work [with Steptoe partners] and for my clients to as well.”
Sheridan said Steptoe & Johnson reached out to the Sedgwick team about joining the firm during a six-month process where the group vetted a number of other firms to join.
“Steptoe kept coming out on top and checking all the boxes as the place we felt would best-serve the platform of our 50-plus clients,” Sheridan said.
The pair declined to comment on the details of Sedgwick’s dissolution or if the process—one akin to the wind down of Dickstein Shapiro—might face any legal challenges. Sheridan said there was a group of employees staying on at Sedgwick to help transition client files to new firms, adding that there haven’t been any client service interruptions for her group.
“We are excited to kick off the New Year with the arrival of this dynamic group of trial lawyers,” said a statement by Steptoe & Johnson chair Philip West. “They have built a strong consumer protection and tort litigation practice that will greatly complement the litigation practices in our commercial litigation group and expand the suite of services offered to our clients.”
On Wednesday, Sedgwick’s website displayed a note announcing the firm’s dissolution.
“We have concluded that the best way to allow our lawyers to continue providing great service to our clients is by ceasing operations and moving to other excellent law firms,” the note said. “We are pleased that most of our lawyers and staff have opportunities with very fine firms.”
The webpage contained a link to a list of new contact information for about 30 former Sedgwick partners. Those lawyers now appear to be working at a long list of firms including: Clyde & Co, Duane Morris, Goldberg Segalla, Hinshaw & Culbertson, King & Spalding and Shook, Hardy & Bacon, as well as a handful of smaller shops. Michael Healy, Sedgwick’s former chair, has joined Shook Hardy with two other lawyers.