San Francisco-based Sedgwick will be shuttering its operations in early January, the nearly 85-year-old Am Law 200 firm said in a statement Tuesday.
“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,” said the firm in a statement. “We are pleased that most of our lawyers and staff have opportunities with very fine firms.”
Two sources familiar with Sedgwick said a large number of lawyers and staff may be hired by U.K.-based Clyde & Co. One source said that representatives from the British firm will be meeting with Sedgwick in the coming weeks to assess which of the firm’s lawyers and staff it will hire. A third source said that some Sedgwick employees would be out of a job as early as Dec. 1.
Discussions about a more formal merger with Clyde & Co had reportedly broken down within the past month. Michael Knoerzer, Clyde & Co’s New York managing partner and a member of the firm’s global management board, said his firm would not comment about potential acquisition targets.
Sedgwick chairman Michael Healy, who assumed leadership of the firm in early 2015, did not return a request for comment about its talks with Clyde & Co, which earlier this week expanded into Malaysia.
From Austin, Texas, to Washington, D.C., and Chicago to New York, Sedgwick has seen a number of its offices dwindle or outright shutter so far this year. In September, Florida’s Fowler White Burnett welcomed Sedgwick admiralty and maritime litigation partner Charles Davant in Fort Lauderdale. October saw Kennedys, another big British firm, absorb Sedgwick Chudleigh, a Bermuda-based affiliate of the insurance-focused Sedgwick. The home office of Sedgwick in San Francisco has recently been the scene of more departures.
The latest lawyers to leave the firm in the city were partners Steven Roland and Randall Block, both of whom this month quietly joined the 100-plus lawyer Burke, Williams & Sorensen in its real estate, insurance and litigation group in the Bay Area. In late 2014, Burke Williams hired former Sedgwick real estate, land use and natural resources group chair Anna Shimko, who had come aboard in 2010 after her previous firm dissolved.
Block and Roland declined to comment about their decision to leave Sedgwick, which The American Lawyer reported in June had lost 20 percent of its revenue this year due to partner defections, an exodus that quickened after the January defections of 40 lawyers in New Jersey and Texas. (That group included Sedgwick’s former leader Michael Tanenbaum, who formed Newark-based litigation boutique Tanenbaum Keale.)
Roland had served in management positions at Sedgwick for more than 15 years, including leading the firm’s commercial litigation practice. Other recent departures include appellate litigation partner Agelo Reppas in Chicago, who recently joined local firm BatesCarey. Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani also added Sedgwick civil litigation partner Kendra Canape in Irvine, California, while Bullivant Houser Bailey brought on Sedgwick products liability partner Rachel Tallon Reynolds in Seattle.
That attrition has slashed Sedgwick’s head count to fewer than 160 lawyers, a 39 percent drop from 12 months ago, according to data compiled by ALM Legal Intelligence. That is by far the largest fall in head count among Am Law 200 firms during that period. Sedgwick has lost at least 49 partners, 60 associates and 19 counsel within the past year.
In its statement, Sedgwick expressed pride in its lawyers and staffers, past and present.
“While this news deeply saddens all of us, we are very proud and appreciative of all those who helped make Sedgwick the great firm it has been since 1933,” the firm said. “From the bottom of our hearts, we thank our clients, attorneys and staff for everything you have done for us for decades, and we wish anyone who has ever crossed paths with this wonderful law firm the best and brightest future.”
News of Sedgwick’s impending dissolution was first reported by legal newswire Law360.