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New York: The city that does sleep

New York: The city that does sleep

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New York, New York, if they can make it there, they can make it anywhere. But can they? Olivia Collings and Kate Gibbs report

NEW York, New York, if they can make it there, they can make it anywhere. If the adage is true for the legal profession, close attention needs to be paid to the city, and the law firms in it.

American Lawyer, a US legal magazine, is calling the economic conditions “the fire this time”, warning that big firms may be hurtling toward “a paradigm-shifting, blood-in-the-suites” future.

The Law Shucks blog has a “layoff tracker,” and it makes for grim reading. Top firms are rapidly thinning their ranks, and some — including Heller Ehrman, a 500-plus-lawyer firm founded in 1890 — have closed.

In New York and other major cities around the globe, hard-working legal elite have been blindsided, and even cheaper juniors have suddenly found themselves with massive student debts and no source of income or job prospects.

The PR game of law firm majors avoiding mass layoffs to save grace have been sidelined in business desperation.

Despite undeniably harsh economic conditions and many partner and senior associate layoffs, hope about an economic upturn glimmers in some glassed-walled high rises of the Big Apple.

This week, international firm Dechert has strengthened its New York office with the appointment of two new finance partners, who move from Clifford Chance. Stuart Strauss and Richard Horowitz will join the firm’s financial services group, reports Legal Week.

Strauss has been a partner with Clifford Chance since 2004 and has a practice focused on US securities law and investment advice. He represents investment companies, independent directors of investment companies, banks and other financial institutions.

Horowitz, who joined Clifford Chance in 2000 and made partner in 2005, has a client base including mutual funds, hedge funds and investment advisers.

The departures are the latest for Clifford Chance’s US practice, after partner headcount in the Magic Circle firm’s New York office fell by 18 between March and July this year - the equivalent of around a quarter of the local practice.

Nine partners left the litigation practice and five departed from corporate, while the securities and capital markets practices were also affected.

Dechert isn’t the only one hiring. Haynes and Boone, an international corporate law firm with offices in Texas, California, New York, Washington DC, Mexico City and Moscow, yesterday announced it would expand its international bankruptcy practice with the addition of Michael Foreman, who joins the firm’s New York office as Of Counsel, an attorney employed by a law firm or an organisation who is not an associate or a partner.

Bankruptcy and business restructuring is a core practice at Haynes and Boone and Foreman has extensive experience in steering businesses through turbulent economic climates. Foreman is part of the long-range plans to bolster the practice, firmwide practice group chair, Steve Pezanosky, said.
“Bankruptcy and business restructuring has been a core practice at Haynes and Boone for 30 years, and Michael represents a key acquisition in our commitment to bolstering our New York presence,” he said.  
Foreman has more than 20 years of financial bankruptcy and restructuring experience, representing secured and unsecured lenders and creditors, acquirers of and investors in distressed assets, and financially distressed companies in many of the nation’s largest and most complex restructurings as well as in out-of-court and cross-border restructurings.

Foreman has been recognised by New York Super Lawyers as a leading bankruptcy and creditors’ rights attorney, and regularly lectures and writes on bankruptcy and corporate governance matters.

Foley and Lardner have also announced a new appointment, with Jonathan Moskin joining from White and Case, reports Moskin has joined the firm as a partner in the New York office working with the intellectual property litigation and trademark, copyright and advertising practices.

Moskin has acted as lead trial and appellate counsel in trademark, copyright and patent cases, as well as contract disputes, privacy matters, false advertising and right of publicity cases in numerous federal and state courts. Moskin was also the chair of Pennie and Edmonds trademark, copyright and competition group.

Moskin’s appointment comes after the recent additions of health care attorney Jeffrey Thrope; intellectual property attorney Etsuo Doi (New York and Tokyo); Barry Mandel, former co-head of Merrill Lynch and Co’s global litigation, employment and regulatory affairs department, and energy and infrastructure attorneys Howard Margulis and Ellen Wolchek.

If New York is indeed “top of the heap”, there are some signs the rest of the world  isn’t in such a bad shape after all.

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