Ten more partners of Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault gave their notice last weekend, the Boston law firm confirmed yesterday, prompting speculation across the city’s legal community about the future of a firm that once dominated high-tech and venture capital legal advice in this region.
The exodus lowers to 60 Testa’s total number of partners and will put a dent in the firm’s private-equity and business practices. The firm has lost one-quarter of its partners this year, due in part to a leadership void created after founder Richard Testa died in December 2002, according to people who do business with the firm.
Yesterday, the firm said in a statement that it had received “notices of intention to withdraw from the partnership” from 10 partners, but that those partners were contractually bound to stay aboard until March 31, 2005. Three of the lawyers are going to Bingham McCutchen, Bingham confirmed, including Steven C. Browne, the head of Testa’s business practice group. Kevin M. Barry and Michael A. Conza also are moving to Bingham.
The seven other lawyers are from Testa’s private-equity group, said members of the firm. The group is a key practice at Testa, helping venture firms raise funds to invest in companies, and representing pension funds and other institutions that place money with venture and private-equity funds.
“We have not been advised of the intended destinations of the second group,” said Steve Barrett, Testa’s chief marketing officer. He acknowledged that the remaining partners have held several meetings in recent days but declined to say whether they were considering disbanding. “The firm is still on track to have its second- or third-best year ever. The firm, in terms of viability, is doing fine.”
But competitors said it’s difficult to keep a firm going when many of its top revenue-producing lawyers leave. When Richard Testa retired in 2001, the technology market was deep in its slump, causing upheaval at Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault and at all firms with a technology focus. The market ultimately came back, but the firm did not.
Jay K. Hachigian, a partner at Gunderson Dettmer, a Silicon Valley law firm with a large Waltham office, said, “In my view their demise has nothing to do with the market. It has to do with internal issues.” He noted, “The tech market is as vibrant as ever.”