Dorsey & Whitney loses tax team to litigation boutique

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  • This was by far the most profitable part of D&W in London. The place has gone from a stable and growing full service office five years ago to a rag bag outpost that is a shadow of its former self. Almost everyone has left. If ever there was an example of the need to be careful as to who gets parachuted over from the US to lead an office, this is it. The stated aim, delivered with monumental truck loads of hubris, was to have a top tier arbitration and commercial litigation practice in London. That was an embarrassing failure and all that has been achieved is to drive various teams and individuals away. It's a great pity and terribly sad.

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  • I can't see the London office surviving this blow. The Tax Litigation Team were by far the most profitable department in the firm and the only one with a good client base and regular work. The other departments have been struggling for years and everyone knows that it was Simon Whitehead who was keeping the office afloat.

    The headcount is tiny compared to what it was a few years ago and it continues to shrink. The firm is losing staff across all levels of the firm from partners to support staff and this has been happening for years. In summary, not a happy place to be.

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  • According to the firm’s website, the London office currently has just 24 fee earners, of whom 13 are partners, 4 are Of/Special Counsel and just 7 associates. That gives an associate/partner gearing of .053. Presumably every one of those partners must be billing near the 2,000 hour mark to make that work? Or is there dead wood that has been kept afloat by the tax litigation £££/$$$? Time will presumably soon tell.

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  • The number of associates per partner has been low for some time. Over the past few years it has got even lower as there has been an exodus of associates. Many associates have left over recent years and none of them have been replaced. The firm also has a very poor trainee retention rate which adds to the lack of junior lawyers in the office. In 2010 the trainee retention rate was zero.

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  • This office used to have highly regarded Commercial law capability doing high tech spin out work, a highly regarded Employment law capability, a sizeable Real Estate team acting for Honda and the NHS and a top tier IP team acting for Mercedes and Bill Gates. All these teams left over the period 2005 through 2010. Whilst the decline in London has been remarkable and stands as a legacy of the local leadership, in fact the Firm has also fallen behind in its home market. Over the same period it has gone from being the historic and seemingly unassailable premier Firm to being resoundingly the number two Firm. On a US national level, it has fallen further and further down the AMLAW 100 to the extent that, at the current rate, it will exit that table and enter the ranks of minor Firms in the next several years. Given the quality of people and clients that the Firm had, and to an extent still has, there is hopefully still a chance for the new generation to halt the decline.

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  • The firm has now crashed to 99 in the AmLaw 100. This almost certainly looks like the firm's last year in the Major League in the US. In London, what was up to 2005 an office that was way ahead of what many US rival had, has declined very significantly. I believe that many who know the firm would not be surprise to see the London office reduced to a small room staffed by just Barry and Rose before long.

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