NEW YORK, April 17 (Reuters) – Dewey & LeBoeuf on Tuesday lost six attorneys from its utilities and energy practice, delivering a sharp blow to the law firm already reeling from the loss of nearly 60 partners.
Considered by legal industry experts to be an important practice area for the troubled firm, the group, which joined Hunton & Williams, is led by Bud Ellis, former co-leader of Dewey’s utilities, power and pipelines industry group.
The other departing lawyers are Kevin Felz, Michael Fitzpatrick Jr., Steven Friend, Steve Loeshelle and Peter O’Brien. The group represents companies and investment banks in the power and utilities industry, with a focus on public and private capital markets transactions. All were Dewey partners, except Felz, who was of counsel.
The defections come weeks after Dewey lost 12 partners from its insurance group, also a critical practice area for the firm.
“I’m not willing to say that it’s over for Dewey, but this is not good,” said Alisa Levin, a recruiter Greene-Levin-Snyder in New York. “It’s cumulative, and every wound makes it worse.”
Also on Tuesday, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman announced that two Dewey partners, Anthony Terrell and Catherine Hood, had joined its corporate and securities practice. Terrell focuses on public and private securities, including energy deals, while Hood’s practice is concentrated in finance and securities matters.
Last month, Dewey chairman Steven Davis announced internally that his firm was cutting attorney ranks to increase profitability.
In a statement Tuesday, the firm suggested that some of the recent departures were linked to Davis’ plan.
“Although the new direction that the firm is taking was approved and is supported by the overwhelming majority of the firm’s partners — as might be expected at a firm with 300 partners — some didn’t like the change,” the statement said. “The number who have left to date, including firm initiated reductions, is consistent with the reduced headcount contemplated by our plan, which contemplates limited further headcount reduction over the next several months.”
The recent departures brings the total number of partners known to have left the firm this year to 64. At the end of last year, the 950-attorney firm had 304 partners, according to The National Law Journal. The 2012 losses represent a 21 percent reduction in partner ranks.
In 2011, Dewey hired a number of high-profile attorneys and has been unable to pay many of its longer-term partners full compensation in recent months, according to two partners who have left. Dewey is saddled with large debt, including about $125 million in bond debt, a rare liability for law firms.