Law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf loses 5 more partners

Wed May 2, 2012 7:21pm EDT

People walk past a sign outside the law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf in New York City May 1, 2012. REUTERS/Lee Celano

People walk past a sign outside the law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf in New York City May 1, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Lee Celano

(Reuters) - Five more partners have left Dewey & LeBoeuf, the struggling U.S. law firm coping with partner defections, high debt and a criminal investigation of its former chairman.

The latest defections include Ira White, co-chair of Dewey's private equity practice. Jones Day announced on Wednesday it hired White for its New York office. Separately, at least four other partners left Dewey's London office for outfits including Vinson & Elkins and KPMG.

Angelo Kakolyris, a spokesman for Dewey, declined comment. White did not respond to a request for comment.

Dewey has lost more than 90 of its 300 partners since the beginning of the year. The latest departures came two days after Dewey & LeBoeuf distributed a memo to partners in which they were "encouraged" to find new jobs.

Ed Morrison, a bankruptcy professor at Columbia Law School, likened the memo to "putting employees on life boats."

"You don't put people on life boats unless you think the ship is sinking," Morrison said.

Dewey continues to struggle with debt. A bank group led by JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) granted Dewey a two-week extension on Monday on a deadline to avoid defaulting on roughly $75 million in loans.

In London, Dewey leaders are considering putting the British office into an insolvency proceeding under British law, a person close to the discussions said. The discussions were described as preliminary.

Amid these talks, Dewey removed the names of four partners in London from its website between Tuesday and Wednesday.

Those included Nabil Khodadad, who co-headed Dewey's project finance and infrastructure practice. Khodadad confirmed on Wednesday that he had joined Vinson & Elkins. Khodadad, who declined further comment, was joined by Andrew Neiland, a "local," or non-equity, partner in Dewey's London office.

Another London lawyer, Julio Castro, became the third Dewey tax partner to join accounting firm KPMG. Castro left Dewey on April 27, according to Dewey spokesman Duncan Miller.

Dewey also removed corporate partner Stephen Walters from its website. Miller said he could not confirm the departure. Walters did not respond to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond and Nick Brown in New York; editing by Andre Grenon)

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