New Jersey law firm Budd Larner is “evaluating next steps” amid two more departures—partners who as of Thursday joined Norris McLaughlin to rebuild that firm’s family law practice.
Karolina Dehnhard and David Tawil joined the Bridgewater-based firm, which is opening a small office in Short Hills to accommodate them and the clients they have in that area. Norris McLaughlin’s longtime family practice leader struck out to form her own firm late last year.
“For me personally, it’s an incredible opportunity to craft and create something,” and to “build something that will be sustainable over time,” said Dehnhard, who will lead and hopes to grow the practice.
For Short Hills-based Budd Larner, Dehnhard and Tawil are the 17th and 18th known departures in a week’s time.
Budd Larner executive committee members Peter Frazza and Susan Reach Winters issued a statement Thursday.
“In light of several recent partner departures, Budd Larner would like to wish all of our former partners and associates the very best at their new firms,” they said.
“As Budd Larner enters its 85th year, we are evaluating next steps for the firm,” they added in the statement, but declined to discuss the situation further.
The former chairwoman of Norris McLaughlin’s matrimonial and family law practice, Jeralyn Lawrence, left the firm at the end of 2018 with four others from her group to form Lawrence Law in Watchung.
Since then, the firm has sought to restaff the practice, and “this is a fulfillment of that,” managing partner John Vanarthos said of the additions of Dehnhard and Tawil. “We’re very excited obviously to have them join.”
“It’s really an important service that we need to have for our clients,” Vanarthos said, adding that the new office “makes sense for us now since they have an [established] client base there.”
The office is at 51 John F. Kennedy Parkway in Short Hills, according to Dehnhard and Tawil, who join Norris McLaughlin as partners. They pointed to the firm’s practice mix, geography and size—at roughly 130 lawyers—as draws.
They also have known Norris McLaughlin lawyers professionally.
“Both of us faced off against attorneys here over the years,” Tawil said. “We know them well and consider them colleagues.”
Dehnhard and Tawil handle divorce; prenuptial agreements; child custody, support and parenting time; alimony; and business valuation, among other areas.
Dehnhard said she and Tawil “were both happy at Budd Larner,” but “the opportunity to lead the resurrection of a matrimonial and family law group, at such a prestigious, growing and strong law firm, was something that we could not easily overlook.“
Tawil added, “At the end of the day, with the opportunity presented, we made a decision that we felt was best for our practice, one that we certainly foresee continuing for decades to come.”
Their departures bring Budd Larner’s attorney head count to 33, according its website’s listing of attorneys.
Earlier this month, the firm saw the departures of two rainmakers and members of firm management: Andrew Miller, who brought his 15-member intellectual property practice to the Madison office of New York-based firm Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf as of April 15, and James Fitzsimmons, who as of April 12 joined the Florham Park office of Drinker, Biddle & Reath as a partner in the corporate and securities practice.
Fitzsimmons on Wednesday said he knew a few Drinker Biddle attorneys via referrals and other connections, and stayed in touch with the firm’s Andrew Joseph, managing partner of the Florham Park office where Fitzsimmons now practices.
Joseph in a statement said Fitzsimmons’ practice “bolsters our accomplished corporate and securities capabilities in New Jersey and across the firm nationally.”
Fitzsimmons, like Dehnhard and Tawil, pointed to his new firm’s geography and depth as draws, adding that his clients “over time had expressed an interest [in] an appropriate platform for their work.” He said all his clients are coming in the move.
“My expectation is, the big platform and the scope of the services I’ll be able to offer will help expand the practice,” Fitzsimmons said, noting his private equity and venture capital clients. “There is more to acclimate to, but Drinker is doing an excellent job providing all the resources … for what seems to me like a pretty seamless transition.”
Fitzsimmons, who began his career at Budd Larner in 1994 and remained there since, said it “was time, for a variety of reasons,” to make the move, but declined to say more about the firm’s current situation.
Fitzsimmons called Budd Larner “a great law firm” and pointed to partner Mark Larner as his professional mentor.
“I had a great almost 25 years there,” Fitzsimmons said.