By Nate Raymond
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Seventeen more partners at Dewey & LeBoeuf announced their departure on Monday, as the failing law firm considered filing for bankruptcy.
Rival law firm Proskauer Rose said it was bringing in four partners, including Ralph Ferrara, a vice chairman at Dewey and former general counsel of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Duane Morris, another law firm, said it was hiring 16 lawyers from Dewey, including six of its partners.
The latest round of departures followed news on Friday that the law firm was considering filing for bankruptcy, after attempting a liquidation outside court. Dewey last week hired Joff Mitchell, a senior managing director at restructuring firm Zolfo Cooper, two people familiar with the matter said. ID:L1E8GK3TJ
Once among the 20 largest law firms in the United States, Dewey has been shattered by partner defections and a heavy debt load. A spokesman for Dewey declined to comment on how many partners were left, though it appears to have just 30 to 40 left of the roughly 300 who worked there at the start of the year.
"It's a tragedy and unfortunate for all concerned that the drama played out the way it did," said James Bowe, an energy lawyer formerly at Dewey's office in Washington and on its executive committee who was voted into King & Spalding's partnership Friday.
The collapse of Dewey is expected to be the subject of court proceedings for years to come, and partners are hiring lawyers. Mark Zauderer, a partner at New York litigation boutique Flemming Zulack Williamson Zauderer, confirmed Monday that a group of at least 50 former Dewey partners are preparing to retain him to represent them in matters related to the firm's demise.
The departures on Monday included Ferrara, a white-collar and securities defense lawyer in its Washington office. He joined LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, one of Dewey's predecessor firms, in 2005. The partners joining him at Proskauer include Jonathan Richman and Ann Ashton, who were co-heads of Dewey's securities litigation practice group.
Proskauer had previously taken on a six-partner bankruptcy group from Dewey led by Martin Bienenstock, who was a member of Dewey's top management group in its final months. The firm is also expected to bring on two London restructuring partners, Mark Fennessy and Hazel Miller, who have been taking the lead in planning for the wind-down of Dewey's British arm.
The group joining Duane Morris is led by Elizabeth Powers, a corporate partner in New York who had been a member of its executive committee. Duane Morris is naming eight of the other 15 lawyers partner at its firm, five of whom had the title of partner previously at Dewey.
Among Duane Morris's new partners is Cameron MacRae, the son of one the name partners of LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, which merged with Dewey Ballantine in 2007.
Other firms announcing they had hired Dewey partners Monday included Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, which hired New York corporate partner Robert Finkel, and Morrison & Foerster, which recruited executive compensation partner Domnick Bozzetti in New York.
Margaret Keane, an employment partner in San Francisco, said she was joining Littler Mendelson as of Tuesday. Cooley separately hired Dewey antitrust partners Marc Schildkraut and Jacqueline Grise in Washington, D.C.
Separately, the Federal Communications Commission said Monday it would hire Dewey antitrust partner David Turetsky as chief of its Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.
(Reporting By Nate Raymond; Editing by Richard Chang)