It’s payback time for former Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman partners.
At least eight lawyers who left Pillsbury last year are being asked to return a portion or all of their 2006 earnings to the firm within 30 days — but most say they have no intention of paying back anything, even if it means going to court.
The attorneys received letters this month claiming they had been overpaid, demanding repayments of about $30,000 to $100,000. One letter, obtained by The Recorder, explains that the ex-partner in question received a distribution greater than their actual share of the firm’s profits at the time they departed.
Pillsbury has had a rocky recent past. Profits had been sluggish in recent years, though the firm recently posted improved revenue per lawyer and profits per partner for 2006 — helped partly by the loss of about 100 lawyers, about 40 of them partners.
Reactions from ex-partners who received the letters ranged from “insulted” to “furious.” Many questioned the firm’s accounting, the fairness and enforceability of the demands, and why they are being singled out, since not all partners who left last year got a letter.
Pillsbury responded to questions through a prepared statement by partner Ron Van Buskirk, the firm’s general counsel.
“It is common for attorneys who leave a law firm to have repayment obligations for items the firm may have advanced in their behalf, such as draws against future income and other things,” Van Buskirk wrote. “The letters we sent were notices relating to such obligations.”
The firm did not say how much money is at stake.