Law firm Patton Boggs engages former Dewey restructuring adviser

NEW YORK Tue Mar 4, 2014 9:46pm EST

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Beleaguered Washington D.C. law and lobbying firm Patton Boggs is working with restructuring lawyers as it deals with waning revenue and continues to discuss a merger with a larger law firm, according to people familiar with the matter.

Al Togut, the bankruptcy and restructuring lawyer who advised the law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf before its collapse in 2012, and through its subsequent Chapter 11, has been consulted by the 400-lawyer Patton Boggs, said two of the sources who declined to be named because the matter is not public.

One of the sources said Togut has been formally retained. Togut could not be reached for comment.

Patton Boggs managing partner Edward Newberry did not confirm or deny the hiring of Togut. He said in an email that Reuters was "barking up the wrong tree" by asking about the matter.

"The suggestion that bankruptcy is an issue is so far from the mark as to be laughable," he said without giving any further details.

The hiring of Togut does not necessarily mean Patton Boggs is planning a bankruptcy filing. For example, the firm could be looking for additional legal help on restructuring the firm's business, the sources said.

"If the partners stay, the firm will survive," one of the sources said. "If the partners go, there will be a bankruptcy. It's all up to them."

Togut's engagement is the latest development highlighting the precarious financial situation at Patton Boggs. Over the past year the firm has conducted layoffs of at least 110 lawyers and staff, asking under-producing partners to leave and revamping its compensation system.

In 2012 and 2013, the firm saw its revenue slide after major cases settled, including the defense of New York City amid claims arising from contractors who suffered while responding to the September 11 attacks.

In January, the firm reported to partners that 2013 revenue was $278 million, a 12 percent drop from the previous year, according to an analysis of figures in an internal memo obtained by Reuters.

A Patton Boggs spokesman on Tuesday confirmed a report in the Wall Street Journal that it had hired financial advisers, including restructuring firm Zolfo Cooper.

On February 26, the 1,300-lawyer, global law firm Squire Sanders announced that it was in merger talks with Patton Boggs following a Reuters inquiry about the possible deal. Two months earlier, merger talks between Patton Boggs and the larger Texas firm Locke Lord were called off after starting in October.

(Reporting By Casey Sullivan, Nick Brown and Tom Hals; Editing by Ted Botha and Miral Fahmy)

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