12 Dewey & LeBoeuf partners defect to Willkie Farr

The New York-based firm has now lost 31 of its 300 partners since the beginning of the year

Hopefully the onset of spring will also mean a rebirth of sorts for Dewey & LeBoeuf’s partner ranks and financial health. The global law firm last week lost a dozen partners from its insurance transactional team to Willkie Farr & Gallagher.

Team leaders Alexander Dye, Michael Groll, Robert Rachofsky and John Schwolsky will all be changing addresses. Scott Avitabile, Donald Henderson Jr., Arthur Lynch, Vladimir Nicenko and Allison Tam also will join Willkie’s New York office, while Joseph Ferraro and Nicholas Bugler will transition to its London office and Christopher Petito will join the Washington, D.C. office.

“We have worked closely with this team in a number of transactions over the years,” Willkie Co-Chairman Thomas Cerabino said in a statement. “They are among the most elite practitioners in their field and will add greatly to our capabilities in their areas of expertise.”

The news might not be so bad if it wasn’t just another chapter in the exodus that’s taken place since the start of 2012. Amid reports of financial trouble, the firm has lost 19 other partners, including the former head of its leveraged finance group, John Cobb, who jumped ship for Weil, Gotshal & Manges. Dewey also announced internally that it would cut its attorney and support staff by 5 percent to 6 percent earlier this month.

According to the New York Times, Dewey’s financial troubles stem from extending lucrative pay guarantees to top producers. As a result, the firm is said to be deferring tens of millions of dollars in payments to its partners and reducing compensation for others.

A Dewey spokesman told Reuters that the majority of the recent departures were a result of the firm’s effort to improve its performance.

"The firm is undertaking a number of measures to increase profitability," the spokesman said. "The firm is managing itself prudently."

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