Eight partners in Weil, Gotshal & Manges' Dallas office, including prominent partners Yvette Ostolaza and Angela Fontana, will move to Sidley Austin's Dallas office this month, Sidley announced on Sept. 17.
Ostolaza was co-head of Weil's complex commercial litigation practice, and Fontana was co-head of the U.S. banking and finance practice. Ostolaza declines comment, and Fontana could not immediately be reached for comment.
The other Weil partners making the move are Penny Reid, Vance Beagles, Angela Zambrano, Kelly Dybala, Yolanda Cornejo Garcia and Michelle Hartmann, Sidley announced.
Sidley announced that Ostolaza will serve as global coordinator of its complex commercial litigation practice. She will become managing partner of the Dallas office in January 2014, succeeding managing partner James Bradley, who is transitioning to senior counsel in January 2014.
Fontana will serve as global coordinator of Sidley's private equity practice and become a member of the firm's global finance practice.
Dybalba will join Sidley's private equity and global finance practices. The five other partners — Reid, Beagles, Zambrano, Garcia and Hartmann — will join the complex commercial litigation practice.
Carter Phillips, the chairman of Sidley who is the firm spokesman on the lateral hires in Dallas says the expansion in Dallas continues the firm's growth strategy.
Phillips, of Washington, D.C., says his firm and the Weil lawyers negotiated a deal within three weeks.
"A legal recruiter brought them to our attention but at a time we were seriously looking to expand in Dallas anyway. We were sort of struggling as to whether the exclusively IP litigation focus of the Dallas office continued to make sense," he says. "Our immediate thought was a litigation practice would complement the narrower IP litigation."
Phillips says the two private equity/finance lawyers in the group, Fontana and Dybala, were "icing on the cake."
Phillips says Sidley clearly wanted to bring on the Weil group because of the reputation of the lawyers.
"If these eight partners had showed up at our doorstep in Palo Alto, or LA, or wherever, we would have taken them in a heartbeat. If they would have showed up in Austin, Texas, we would have given serious thought to opening an Austin office, they are so good," he says.
Phillips says the start date is undetermined, but he believes the laterals will transition to Sidley quickly. While only eight Weil partners have announced their departure, Phillips expects a number of associates to later decide to move as well, and he says the Weil lateral group could expand from eight to around 25 lawyers over the next few weeks.
"We do have space," Phillips says about the firm's Dallas office, which is currently staffed by 25 lawyers.
Phillips says the 1,750-lawyer Sidley has no immediate plans to open any other Texas offices, but he's not ruling it out.
"Lawyers in this group have built highly ranked practices in complex litigation, arbitrations, internal investigations and private equity finance, and will add considerable strength to our litigation experience and expertise and to our existing ability to advise clients on acquisition-related financings and debt restructurings," Phillips writes in the statement about the Dallas group.
Glenn West, managing partner of the Weil Dallas office, did not immediately return a telephone message left at his office.
In June, New York City-based Weil laid off 60 associates and 110 staff firmwide, and that reduction impacted the firm's complex commercial litigation practice in Houston. On June 24, Barry Wolf, the firm's executive partner, announced in an email sent to lawyers and staff that Weil Gotshal "will be deemphasizing" its complex commercial litigation practice in Houston as part of "adjustments" the firm announced because "the market for premium legal services has entered into a 'new normal' after the 2008 financial crisis."