March 23, 2012 4:51 PM

Dewey Lateral Losses Mount as Six Insurance Partners Head to Sutherland Asbill

Posted by Julie Triedman

Update, 3/23/12, 5:37 p.m. EDT: This story has been updated with comment from Sutherland Asbill Brennan.

Dewey LeBoeuf is losing six more partners, this time to Sutherland Asbill Brennan.

In confirming the departures Friday,  Dewey said the lawyers leaving include John Pruitt and Cynthia Shoss, the New York–based co-heads of the firm’s insurance regulatory practice; and Jeffrey Mace, head of the firm’s Lloyd’s of London and Lloyd’s Market practice.

The Sutherland-bound group also include Linda Sciuto and P. Bruce Wright, two New York tax partners who have long represented insurance clients; and James Dwyer, managing partner of the Dewey’s Chicago office.

Friday’s partner losses come a week after the firm saw a dozen insurance partners—including Michael Groll, cochair of the insurance sector group; John Schwolsky, cochair of the corporate finance practice group; and Alexander Dye, chair of the firm’s U.S. MA practice—jump to Willkie, Farr Gallagher. All told, according to The Am Law Daily’s reporting, Dewey has lost at least 36 partners so far this year. As of Friday, its partnership numbered 285, according to the firm’s Web site.

“We have said all along that with change more departures were expected,” the firm said in a prepared statement. “These additional departures, while regrettable, we do not believe will change the conclusion that the firm is poised to have a very good economic year. We have a strong and deep bench as is evidenced by the results our professionals are producing for our clients and the firm.”

The firm also said the departures would not affect the firm financially. “These departures will not have a material impact on firm finances this year, nor will it affect the compensation budget on a net basis after deducting the departing partner comps.”

A cached version of Pruitt’s bio, which was no longer available on the Dewey Web site as of Friday, says that he had been at Dewey and its predecessor firm LeBoeuf for more than 20 years. Dwyer was a 30-year veteran of the firm in its current and previous incarnations.

In a statement issued by a spokeswoman, Sutherland Asbill Brennan leaders said the addition of the Dewey parterns was a double-barreled win.

“Their combined broad experience in the insurance industry is a natural complement to our insurance and tax teams and strengthens our industry leading practice,” Sutherland managing Partner Mark Wasserman said. “Our clients will immediately benefit from this added depth and breadth.”

William Bradley, the partner in charge of Sutherland’s New York office, said the additions would help advance a strategy to expand that location. “Our New York office has focused on the insurance and
financial services sectors since we opened in late 2002,” Bradley said. “As a firm, our strategy is to expand our leading practices that serve clients in key industries, and the addition of our new partners clearly and emphatically advances that strategy.”

The latest defections come just a few days after Dewey chair Steven Davis sought to rally the troops at a regular monthly partners meeting—and a day after The Am Law Daily reported that the firm had gone into full-on damage control mode by turning to crisis communications specialist Michael Sitrick.

Despite the continuing drumbeat of bad news for Dewey in recent weeks, it continues to pick up business. The firm’s business solutions practice, for example, has been hired by Springleaf Financial Services, the subprime lender owned by Fortress Investment Group, as it seeks to restructure its operations.

On Friday, the firm said that MA partner Keith Flaum and technology transactions partners John Brockland and Robert Finkel are advising eBay in the sale of its unit to Primedia. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. (Cleary Gottlieb Steen Hamilton corporate partner Paul Shim is advising Primedia on the deal.)

And earlier this month, another team of Dewey lawyers advised computer giant Dell on its $1.25 billion of SonicWall, a provider of data protection and network security services to businesses.

Brian Baxter and Sara Randazzo contributed reporting.

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When there are just three lawyers and a mail room guy left, you’ll still get a press release saying basically the same thing — “the recent departures of several hundred parnters and associates, while regrettable, will not have a material impact on our projected results and we are well-positioned to continue……” Come on.