April 12, 2012 2:08 PM

Los Angeles Dewey Lawyer Bolts, Bringing Partner Defections to 52

Posted by Sara Randazzo

David Smith, a partner in the Los Angeles office of Dewey LeBoeuf, became the latest lawyer to jump ship from the struggling firm. With Smith’s defection to Stradling Yocca Carlson Rauth in Santa Monica, a total of 52 partners have left Dewey to join competitors this year.

Stradling is a 100-attorney firm with five offices in California. Dewey had more than 1,000 lawyers, including 305 partners, at the end of last year, but that number is quickly dwindling.

A Dewey spokesman confirmed that Smith left the firm Wednesday but had no additional comment. Smith was not immediately available for comment.

Smith, who became a partner at Dewey in 2008, is a corporate lawyer who handles mergers and acquisitions, tender offers, joint ventures, private equity and venture capital investments, and other transactions. While at Dewey, he worked on matters for Ebay, Goldman Sachs, Bankrate, and Walt Disney, according to his bio on Dewey’s Web site.

The departure follows news Wednesday, reported by The Wall Street Journal, that former Dewey partner Richard Spitzer joined Mayer Brown in New York.

Spitzer specializes in corporate finance and capital markets transactions related to the insurance industry, according to a Mayer Brown press release announcing his arrival. He is the third Dewey partner to jump to Mayer Brown in the last week, following James Woods, an insurance lawyer who works in Palo Alto and New York, and Stephen Rooney, a corporate lawyer in New York.

Nearly 20 firms have capitalized on the recent exodus from Dewey, which is reportedly cutting its compensation to lawyers in the wake of weak financial results last year and mounting debt obligations.

A story by Reuters on Wednesday identified seven key Dewey lawyers whose dedication to the firm may be crucial to the firm’s survival, according to legal industry experts. One of those partners, bankruptcy lawyer Martin Bienenstock, told Reuters that he’s in in for the long haul, writing in an e-mail to the publication: “Two weeks ago, more than 50 business-generators each individually pledged to stay with the firm. I was among them, and my only plans are to make the firm survive and thrive.”

For a look at which firms have grabbed Dewey lawyers this year, check out The Am Law Daily’s guide here. For more coverage of Dewey’s recent troubles, read our previous reports including an interview with Dewey defector John Altorelli, now at DLA Piper; a look at the firm’s new management structure; and an account of losses to the firm’s insurance practice.

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