Six lawyers from the bankruptcy practice of beleaguered firm CKR Law have moved to the New York and Delaware offices of Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads, ALM has learned.
Edward Schnitzer, who heads CKR’s bankruptcy practice, joined the Philadelphia-based law firm, where he will chair its bankruptcy and financial restructuring practice. Four others are joining him as partners and one as of counsel. The lawyers, who started at Montgomery McCracken on Tuesday, represent creditors, trustees and other parties in bankruptcy courts and related proceedings.
Schnitzer, David Banker, Maura Russell and Gilbert “Gib” Saydah joined the firm as partners in New York. Marc Phillips and Jeffrey Carbino joined the firm’s Wilmington office, where Phillips is partner and Carbino is of counsel.
“While we each have our own specialties that we focus more time on, collectively, we handle all sorts of bankruptcy matters and all sorts of constituents in a bankruptcy,” Schnitzer said.
The bankruptcy group has worked a variety of important and high-profile cases. They currently represent creditors in the bankruptcies of Sears Holding Corp. and Westinghouse; creditors’ committees in three other cases; and a client in the Heritage Home Group Chapter 11. They collectively have more than 100 years of legal experience.
Schnitzer and his colleagues were tight-lipped about the circumstances of their departure from CKR, a firm whose leaders acknowledged in internal emails this year that it is facing a “cash flow crunch.” Some partners had not been paid their regular draws in at least three months, ALM reported in May.
The incoming Montgomery McCracken lawyers would not say whether they had been paid, whether they were owed money, or even when their last day at the firm was.
“The best I can tell you is we were presented with an opportunity to join a great firm,” Schnitzer said. “We left CKR on good terms. We wish everyone there the best, the firm the best.”
Former CKR colleagues who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the bankruptcy group left Monday. They said it had been a “core” part of the firm’s business.
CKR’s managing partner Jeffrey Rinde said in a statement Tuesday that he wished the departing lawyers well and said the firm still has bankruptcy lawyers in Washington, Delaware, California and Texas.
Rinde added that the firm’s cash flow situation had improved. “The firm has made recent draws to performing partners and made commitments to those partners with respect to the past-due draws,” he wrote. “In addition, CKR is in the process of replacing underperforming partners with partners with established books of business or who can service existing client demands.”
Meanwhile, 96-lawyer Montgomery McCracken has seen its own share of lateral movement in and out of the firm over the past year. It counted over 120 lawyers as recently as last August, when it launched an intellectual property department with the hiring of four lawyers from Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney.
But in September, its executive chairman Richard Scheff and six other lawyers departed to help Armstrong Teasdale launch a Philadelphia office. And in January, Armstrong Teasdale hired another 16 lawyers from Montgomery McCracken to launch an office in New York.
In an interview, Richard “Rick” Simins, Montgomery McCracken’s vice chairman, said the addition of the CKR team was “very much of a piece with our strategic plan to grow our New York office.” He said the firm was anticipating last year’s departures and is “actively in discussions with people in Wilmington, Philadelphia and New York” to join the firm.
“We’re actively looking to attract lawyers of any practice or specialty to our New York office, so long as they’re all high-quality lawyers and share the same sort of cultural expectation in terms of collaborativeness that we value so much at Montgomery McCracken,” he said.