The dissolution of US West Coast giant Brobeck Phleger & Harrison in January has left its trainees facing an uncertain future.
The firm voted to dissolve on 30 January - a day after fellow US firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius walked away from a merger. The shock news represents the biggest collapse of a professional services firm since Andersens and probably the biggest collapse of any law firm since Finley Kumble in the 1980s. The firm first hit serious trouble when former chairman Tower Snow defected with a team of 17 partners to Clifford Chance, after which Brobeck's profits began falling dramatically. Morgan Lewis, the white knight that had come to save Brobeck last year after talks with Hogan & Hartson faltered in October, turned away from the merger just hours after high-profile partner and head of Brobeck's litigation practice Steven Zager resigned from the troubled firm.
There was some good news, though. Brobeck's European operation, which operated as a joint venture with Boston-based Hale and Dorr, dodged dissolution after Hale and Dorr took the London, Oxford and Munich offices under its wing.
Although a number of Brobeck lawyers have already found homes at other US firms, including Weil Gotshal & Manges and Baker & McKenzie, with a third of the partners moving to Morgan Lewis, the future for many Brobeck trainees remains in doubt.