BHD plays down loss of managing partner

Pillman takes the reins as Kellerman revises his 'long-term vision' to a few months

Brobeck Hale and Dorr (BHD) is desperately attempting to play down the shock announcement that managing partner Thomas Kellerman is leaving the firm.

Kellerman's stunning decision was made public as Hale and Dorr confirmed that it had assumed control of the offices in London, Oxford and Munich.

The move follows the collapse of Brobeck Phleger & Harrison, which formed the BHD joint venture with Hale and Dorr.

Corporate partner Joe Pillman, who is taking over as partner-in-charge of Europe, claims that in the context of Hale and Dorr taking on the responsibility for the joint venture's European operation, Kellerman's departure “is not a significant development”.

He added that Kellerman was not at BDH on “a permanent basis”, since he had always intended to return to the US, specifically to Brobeck, but this was before the firm was wound up.

However, Kellerman ceased to be a partner at Brobeck when he joined BHD in 1999.

Kellerman said he took the decision to step down as managing partner following meetings with Hale and Dorr at the beginning of last week. This followed a trip to California to meet with Brobeck the previous week.

He said that it was always his intention to move back to the US. “It wouldn't have been fair to become a full-time partner if you cannot commit to being part of the new organisation,” he added.

Nevertheless, in an extensive interview with The Lawyer, Kellerman spoke about his hopes for the future of the new firm, since on 31 January, just hours after Brobeck decided to wind up the US practice, Kellerman confirmed that Hale and Dorr would take on the European operations.

Despite the fact that Brobeck was in merger talks with Morgan Lewis & Bockius, Kellerman said BHD had been in contact with Hale and Dorr for a number of months as the situation in the US unfurled.

Kellerman went on to speak about building up the firm's commercial practice, adding. “You've got to have a long-term vision,” he said. “It's going to take 10 years. It can't happen overnight.”

Kellerman said he would remain at the firm for a few months to help with the handover of his role to Pillman. He has yet to secure partnership at another practice.

“No one forced this decision on him [Kellerman],” Pillman emphasised. “He decided that he doesn't want to stay in London forever.”