Kevin Crews, the counsel who gave his departure notice to Weil on June 12 as Kirkland prepared to set up shop in Dallas, will now join the firm on Wednesday. One source said that Weil had informed Crews about a month ago that he would be able to join Kirkland in early September.
Crews’ departure will bring to a close a contentious, 84-day episode that saw him retain the services of Nixon Peabody commercial litigation partner Tina Solis in Chicago and Weil earn some legal industry backlash over its decision, one that came amid a robust Texas lateral market.
Some lawyers said it was likely against the legal profession’s ethics rules to prevent an attorney from switching firms for as long as six months, while others viewed the dispute as “vindictive” on Weil’s part. One source familiar with the matter said a group of New York-based counsel at Weil had voiced its displeasure about the firm enforcing the six-month notice provision that is part of its employment agreement with counsel.
Weil declined to discuss such alleged issues, but in a broader statement provided to The American Lawyer said that it commonly agrees to not enforce the full six-month provision. The firm’s statement said the dispute with Crews was related to not feeling “confident that clients and firm property would be protected.”
“In Mr. Crews’s instance, a longer notice period was required for us to gain this confidence,” a firm spokeswoman said. “We informed his new firm of what had occurred. Since the announcement of his departure, we have been able to adequately address our concerns. Mr. Crews’ last day at the firm was [Monday].”
Weil declined to provide further details beyond its statement. Kirkland also declined to comment. Neither Crews nor his lawyer, Solis, returned requests for comment.
Weil’s six-month notice provision for counsel, which has been in place since at least 2016, is mutual. Sources said it is unrelated to Weil’s recent announcement that it will shorten its partnership track by two years. In its employment agreement with counsel, Weil agrees to provide six months’ notice if it plans to change its employment status. The firm asks counsel to agree to the same six-month provision, but it is rare that earlier departures aren’t mutually agreed on.
Some industry observers have speculated that Weil sought to enforce the notice provision in response to Kirkland’s recent aggressive hiring in Texas. Kirkland had already brought on former Weil counsel Ryan Gorsch in early July as it prepared to move into Dallas.
Weil’s Dallas office has previously been the center of a somewhat similar situation in 2013, when Sidley Austin hired a slew of lawyers from the firm in the city. That group of nine partners, four counsel and 10 associates was said to have been delayed in starting at Sidley by about a month and came as Weil embarked on a strategic overhaul of its operations.
Kirkland has hired nearly 30 lawyers in Texas since March, according to ALM Intelligence. Those additions include at least two former Weil associates and one other former counsel at the firm, all of whom have now officially joined Kirkland. In late August, Kirkland hired tax partner Lane Morgan, a former Weil associate who spent the past two years at global accounting giant KPMG.
In late May, Kirkland confirmed its hire of former KPMG principal R. David Wheat as a tax partner in Dallas and Houston. During the past few months, the firm has also hired lawyers in Texas from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Baker Botts; Haynes and Boone; Holland & Knight; Jones Day; Latham & Watkins; Mayer Brown; Reed Smith; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; and White & Case, according to data gathered by ALM Intelligence.
On Tuesday, Kirkland did see tax partner Chad McCormick in Houston decamp for White & Case, although the former reeled in former Weil consultant and professional support lawyer Kate Stephenson as a corporate restructuring partner in London.
As for Crews, he will resume his representation of private equity firms when he joins Kirkland. After transitioning his matters to other lawyers at Weil, sources said that Crews had informed Weil that he would no longer be representing clients as he awaited his departure.