“What’d the government think would happen?” said Melvyn Weiss, the firm’s lead partner. While he remains unindicted, the charges against his firm and two top partners are making Milberg Weiss’ future look increasingly bleak.
In recent days, at least one member of the firm’s executive committee and two members of the firm’s management committee have announced their departures, along with a handful of other lawyers.
And partners at competing class action plaintiffs firms say they’re being bombarded with phone calls and resumes of Milberg lawyers seeking jobs at firms without criminal exposure — and without the baggage that criminal charges create for plaintiff lawyers seeking large, institutional clients.
On Thursday, Joe Whatley Jr., head of the Alabama plaintiff firm Whatley Drake, got his New York bar card. And on Friday, he confirmed that in coming months he’ll be opening a New York office with current Milberg Weiss partner Deborah Clark-Weintraub and the entirety of Milberg’s health care practice group — which is led by Whatley’s wife, Edith Kallas.
“This is something that’s not bitter with Milberg,” Whatley said. “She’s representing medical societies and people like that, and she wanted to make sure she could deal with them and continue to represent them.”
In addition to Kallas, the health care group — which comes with a handbag of high-profile cases, such as litigation against brokerage firm Marsh & McLennan — will bring another Milberg partner, Joseph Guglielmo, six current Milberg associates and one Milberg staff lawyer to Whatley Drake.
The group’s work with his firm, Whatley said, will continue to focus on “health care and insurance. You also have the brokerage cases, which is only partially health care.”
The departures of Kallas, a member of Milberg’s executive committee, and Clark-Weintraub, who sits on the management committee, were compounded this week by at least one more senior partner’s departure.
Arnold Bressler, who heads the firm’s corporate practice and sits on the management committee, is also leaving the firm. While Bressler could not be reached by press time Friday, his wife confirmed his departure from the firm.
“He really does not have any plans at this point,” she said.
The departing partners follow Salvatore Graziano, another partner, who in March left the firm for competitor Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann.
Lawyers inside and outside Milberg said another partner, Seth Rigrodsky — the head of Milberg’s Delaware office — has recently been engaged in discussions about leaving the firm. Rigrodsky did not return messages left at his office and his home, and another partner reportedly leaving the firm refused to comment.