Partner exodus at Couderts

SIX Coudert Brothers partners have left to join Morgan Lewis & Bockius' international section in a mass defection with six associates expected to follow.

According to the head of Morgan Lewis' international section in London Charles Lubar, “a lot of people” wanted to leave Couderts, although he would not reveal specific numbers. The six who did join “all have substantial followings”, he said.

Three partners who left Couderts had experience in Singapore, which has led to Morgan Lewis establishing a new office in the country. Lubar said the office would grow to more than 10 staff in the next few months.

Chair of Couderts' executive committee in the New York office Anthony Williams said the partners left following disagreements over how banking practices could be made profitable.

“I'd been trying to get them to focus on project financings,” he said.

Williams said there were rumours Morgan Lewis would be taking 12 associates and several office staff, but he was expecting only six associates to leave.

“I'm absolutely certain we're going to be a stronger organisation as a result of this,” he said. “It is going to be a positive thing in the long run.”

The exodus from Couderts was led by Jonathan D DuBois, who headed the firm's banking group. The managing partner of Morgan Lewis' New York office Sam Fortenbaugh said he approached DuBois after hearing he may be interested in leaving Couderts.

“We then discussed what would be the right group,” he said. “I think a number of them had questions about the philosophy Couderts was pursuing in building the firm.”

DuBois is now working in Morgan Lewis' New York office on international and project finance issues and aircraft and equipment leasing.

Couderts also lost Mark Nelson, who founded and headed its Jakarta office. He is now a partner in Morgan Lewis' Jakarta office, handling commercial transactions.

Morgan Lewis' new Singapore office is being headed by Bertie M Mehigan, who left Couderts' Singapore office after only six months with the firm. Mehigan, who has practised in London, Bahrain and Dublin, is handling cross-border financing, derivative products and project financing, all under English law.

James Redway left Couderts' New York office and is now handling international banking and finance in Morgan Lewis' Singapore office.

His work for Couderts as the resident partner in the Moscow office will lead to Morgan Lewis being represented for the first time in the Russian Federation, according to Lubar.

Robert Hornick, who was instrumental in founding Couderts' Singapore office, is now based in Morgan Lewis' New York office, handling cross-border transactions in Southeast Asia and sovereign debt restructuring in Latin America.

W Preston Tollinger Jr was co-head of Couderts' corporate group, head of the Italy practice group and served as resident partner in the Hong Kong office for five years. He is now in Morgan Lewis' New York office, focusing on corporate law relating to European and Asian matters.

The departures follow three associates leaving Couderts' London office late last year. In 1993 Freshfields took four Couderts' partners to strengthen its far eastern and central European practices.