Two longtime Kasowitz Benson Torres attorneys, including a management committee member, are leaving the New York firm this week to join Kirkland & Ellis.
Aaron Marks, who joined Kasowitz 24 years ago when it was founded and became a top firm leader, and partner Joshua Greenblatt, who joined the firm a decade ago, are moving to Kirkland as partners next Monday. The Law Journal previously reported on Marks’ exit.
Their departures come amid a tumultuous year for Kasowitz Benson Torres, which has repeatedly been in the spotlight since President Donald Trump retained firm founder Marc Kasowitz as his personal lawyer in an investigation into possible Russia interference in last year’s election.
Marks and Greenblatt declined to comment on whether the Trump matter and the resulting publicity influenced their decision to leave the firm. Marks had a full-time practice and, as a management committee member, handled some administrative duties, such as recruiting and overseeing associates.
But Marks confirmed that the two did not work on the Trump matter, “so it certainly did not impact what work we were doing on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
Marks and Greenblatt said they were attracted to Kirkland’s global footprint and its large transactional practice, which includes M&A and fund formation services, that can serve their clients. Marks said he had previously worked with Kirkland litigators as co-counsel and in representing co-defendants.
“My 24 years at Kasowitz is a foundation of my career. The move to Kirkland was really about going to a global platform, about synergies with clients and being able to provide clients with a spectrum of world-class services,” Marks said.
Kirkland’s focus on private equity was also a draw, they said. Both litigators focus on commercial and financial services litigation, and they share some private equity clients with Kirkland.
According to his Kasowitz firm profile, Marks has represented Apollo Management, Bain Capital, Carlyle Group, Centerbridge Capital Partners, Fortress Investment Group and others.
Marks said some clients are going with him to Kirkland but he declined to identify which ones. Marks and Greenblatt said they were leaving Kasowitz amicably.
Other partner exits at the firm this year include Charles Miller, who practiced for 11 years at Kasowitz, and who moved in July to Tarter Krinsky & Drogin. A pair of commercial litigators, Christopher Johnson and Zachary Mazin, left in May to join McKool Smith.
Some legal market observers have privately wondered whether the Trump representation and the firm’s strong connections to Trump—former name partner David Friedman is the Trump administration’s U.S. ambassador to Israel—may be affecting lawyer retention and recruiting.
Since that publicity, Kasowitz has taken a “lower profile” on the Trump legal team, though the firm remained a part of it, according to partner Michael Bowe in July.
However, a source close to the Kasowitz Benson firm maintained there has been no “blowback” related to the Trump representation on recruiting and retention at the firm and knew of no other partner departures.
The source said that Marks’ and Greenblatt’s exits would have no financial impact on Kasowitz Benson, that key clients are staying at the firm and that other partners have already taken on administrative duties that Marks had handled.
A Kasowitz spokesman said, “We appreciate Aaron and Josh’s contributions to the firm and wish them well.”
The departures this year come on top of a net loss of head count last year. Lawyer head count slid by 6.6 percent to 263 lawyers in 2016, while profits per partner stayed steady around $1.86 million.