Michael Hess, former New York City corporation counsel under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, has made another law firm lateral move.
Hess joined Barton LLP, a 34-attorney firm in Manhattan, as a senior counsel on Tuesday. He arrives from 23-attorney Dorf & Nelson, a Westchester-based firm he joined in 2016.
Meanwhile, Hess has stepped back from his work at Giuliani Partners, the consulting firm led by Giuliani where Hess was vice chairman. Hess said he left the consulting firm last year when the business “phased down.” He said he’s not sure whether the consulting firm is still in operation.
“I’m not part of it anywhere, I think it’s a lot less active. I didn’t leave so much as we just phased down,” he said, adding that his own focus has become “strictly the practice of law and litigation.”
Although Hess remains close with Giuliani and represents clients in government matters, he said he never worked with the former mayor on advising President Donald Trump in the special counsel investigation.
Hess said he represents clients who have matters before the city, state and federal governments, including in litigation, tax and real estate matters. He said his clients are joining him at his new firm.
Hess is the second attorney to move from Dorf to Barton this year. Laura-Michelle Horgan, who was a Dorf associate, joined Barton as a litigation partner in recent months.
While Hess praised the Dorf firm and said he had an enjoyable stay there, he said he was looking for “a little more New York-centric practice,” noting a great deal of Dorf’s practice is in Westchester. He said he was also attracted to Barton’s size, with a greater number of attorneys. “I wanted to do more in New York City and Barton has been a great, growing firm,” he said.
For Hess, his move to Barton marks his sixth law firm. Before serving as corporation counsel, Hess was a litigation partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, White & Case and Chadbourne & Parke. In the last decade, he was also senior counsel at Holland & Knight. Earlier in this career, Hess was chief of the civil division at the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Hess said he has no plans to slow down and all of his clients have moved with him to Barton. “I enjoyed big firms like Holland and Weil Gotshal,” he said, “but a smaller firm I find a little less bureaucratic.” He said he also has more flexibility in billing rates and fewer potential conflicts at smaller firms such as Barton.
Jonathan Nelson, Dorf’s litigation department chair, said he wishes Hess well. As for his own firm, he said Dorf this year has added several attorneys to form a medical malpractice defense group. “We handle significant matters in New York City and throughout the region and are excited about our continued expansion,” Nelson said.