Jenkens future in doubt as departures mounts

The future of Texan firm Jenkens & Gilchrist seemed ever more shaky as Jackson Walker confirmed it would be taking 10 lawyers from Jenkens’ San Antonio outpost, effectively shutting down operations in that city.

Four remaining lawyers not going to Jackson Walker will seek alternative employment at other firms.

This follows the news on Monday that 19 lawyers were leaving Jenkens’ Los Angeles office and that 15 lawyers were departing the Chicago outpost, again, closing Jenkens’ offering in both those cities. Ohio-headquartered Baker Hostetler benefitted from the Los Angeles exodus, while newcomer to the Chicago market Nixon Peabody scooped the outgoing Chicago lawyers.

There are also unconfirmed reports that Jenkens has held emergency talks with Hunton & Williams about a group of Jenkens lawyers joining Hunton’s Dallas office. Neither firm would confirm the report. Jenkens currently has 124 lawyers based in Dallas, its biggest office and headquarters.

The firm has not returned requests for comment as yet and there is no concrete indication whether or not the recent meltdown marks the end of Jenkens or merely a retrenchment. What is clear is that the recent spate of departures have been with senior management’s blessing.

Jenkens’ problems began in 2003, when a federal investigation found that several tax shelters, which Jenkens’ mainly Chicago-based lawyers had endorsed, were in fact illegal. The firm spent three years controlling the damage, including firing the partners responsible and making an $82m (£42.4m) settlement with 1,100 tax-shelter investors in 2006.

Since its heyday in 2001, the 56-year-old firm has gone from a headcount of 610 to 250 today, and from revenues of $312m (£160m) to $179m (£91m).