Altheimer & Gray set for shock dissolution

Chicago firm nosedives amid financial crisis; London lawyers scramble for jobs

Altheimer & Gray has become embroiled in a mass of recriminations as it emerged that the Chicago firm is heading for collapse.
As reported on www.thelawyer.com/lawyer news (27 June), the partners will vote today (30 June) on whether to dissolve by next month, ending 88 years of history. This follows a recomendation from the executive and comes after months of partner departures and a series of attempts to cut costs.
It is understood that last week Altheimer, which is headquartered in Chicago and has offices throughout Europe, was frantically calling local firms to find homes for many of its 310 lawyers.
In a statement the firm said: “Orderly dissolution of the firm should enable
Altheimer to extinguish its debt.”
While the firm has been struggling for some time to boost profitability, in recent weeks it has been wounded by a series of high-profile departures, including four real estate partners who moved to Greenberg Traurig.
These featured rainmaker Corey Light, who is believed to have a $2m (£1.2m) book of business.
The former head of Altheimer’s labour and emp-loyment department David Ritter, who is believed to have brought in around $1m (£600,400) a year, defected to Neal Gerber & Eisenberg.
While Chicago has been hit hard by departures, Altheimer’s London office has faced a consistent stream of partner defections as well as the prospect of attempting to offload 11,000 sq ft of unused space at 7 Bishopsgate in a difficult property market.
The firm had been searching for a merger partner to turn around its fortunes and had been linked to Philadelphia’s Duane Morris.
But Sheldon Bonovitz, chairman and chief executive at Duane Morris, ruled out making a rescue bid, adding: “We are looking for a merger partner, but I have no idea where this has come from. We have not or have never talked to Altheimer.”
David Yelin, managing partner at Duane Morris’s Chicago office, confirmed that no talks with Altheimer had ever, or would ever, take place.