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Heller Ehrman Lawyers Scatter as Firm Unwinds

Partners voted via videoconference September 25 to dissolve the firm. Heller’s troubles can be traced to its failed attempts to merge this summer, sources say.

October 20, 2008
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Attorneys who made up Heller Ehrman’s insurance recovery practice are being scattered among several other law firms following the 118-year-old firm’s announcement last month of its intent to dissolve.

The largest number of insurance recovery partners went to Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, while others have joined have joined Proskauer Rose in Los Angeles; Perkins Coie in Madison, Wisconsin; and Covington Burling’s San Francisco office.

“It’s quite a scattering,” said John Dempsey, managing partner of Dempsey Partners, a forensic accounting firm in New York that has worked with several members of Heller Ehrman’s insurance recovery team.

Heller Ehrman partners voted via videoconference September 25 to dissolve the firm and hired dissolution counsel Leslie Corwin of Greenberg Traurig to handle the breakup.

The firm’s troubles can be traced back to its failed attempts to merge with either Baker & McKenzie or Winston & Strawn this past summer, sources say. When those merger attempts failed, 14 intellectual property litigators left the firm, triggering a clause in the contract governing the firm’s line of credit and leading to financial problems, a source said.

Heller Ehrman, which had been one of the nation’s highest-ranked policyholder legal practices, employed 1,200 lawyers and staff members in 14 offices at the beginning of September.

Filed by Joanne Wojcik of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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