Catastrophe denied as Nixon Peabody weather exits

Nixon Peabody attempted to put a positive spin on the departure of 14 partners in little more than a month when it insisted the exits were not “catastrophic”.

The firm’s recent heavyweight losses include Mats Carlston, previously head of ­global finance at Nixon Peabody, who joined Pillsbury with a group of 14 lawyers last week.

Other exits include Frank Ryan, the litigation group chairman; Henry Liu, the chairman of the firm’s China and Asia-Pacific practice; and Michael Murphy, the chairman of Nixon Peabody’s insurance and reinsurance group.

The latter partners joined DLA Piper along with sports business partner Peter White, thought to be one of the firm’s biggest billers.

“They’re losing too many people in a short period of time, which is cause for extreme concern,” says one US consultant.

Brian Flanagan, Nixon Peabody’s operations partner and management committee member, admitted “partner mobility does happen” but attempted to downplay the impact of the exits.

“This is not a situation where we’re losing big gaping holes of business,” insists Flanagan. “When we say it’s not catastrophic, it really isn’t.”

Flanagan added that although 14 partners “in aggregate” had left recently, the reality was that this was three or four “prime business generators” who had taken their groups with them.

“The partners beneath people including Mats [Carlston], Michael [Murphy] and Peter [White] rely on them for their business and are following them,” said Flanagan. “This is ­ancillary movement.”

Flanagan also said that Nixon Peabody was not a firm where a small group of partners controlled large portions of the business.

“No single partner generated more than two per cent of total revenue,” added Flanagan.

The Nixon Peabody partner said the departures would have no impact on his firm’s decade-long growth strategy, which had taken it from its roots as a regional US firm through being a national player to its current position as an increasingly visible international firm.