Dewey Ballantine has been on a roller coaster ride over the past six months, having abandoned merger talks with fellow US firm Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe at the beginning of the year and then announcing its planned tie-up with LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae last month (28 August).
For London managing partner Fred Gander it is likely to get even busier as the firm approaches the partnership vote at the end of September, just a matter of days before the planned launch on 1 October.
“We’ve not decided on exactly how the firms will come together,” admits Gander. “We’ll work out the best way to run each office and manage the firm after it’s been launched next month.”
Gander has been pivotal in the growth of Dewey in London and in the development of its European project finance team. He has a significant presence and influence over the global firm, occupying a spot on the 16-partner global management committee, which has another three European heads discussing and implementing the management of the firm. He is also a member of the firm’s global executive and European supervisory committees.
“It’s important to have a European influence on the [global] committee, because it means your voice is heard and you can reflect the interests not only of the firm, but of your specific office,” Gander explains.
Strategically, the merger should enable both firms to assert their European influence and make their presences on the Continent even more significant.
“The Dewey London office is already the second largest in the firm next to New York. The merger will mean our presence is significantly increased and will be even more important,” says Gander.
His confidence about the merger may be surprising considering the failed attempt to combine with Orrick, but this explains why Dewey is not focusing on management structure and detail until the merger has been approved.
At the beginning of the year (17 January) The Lawyer reported on the defection of Dewey rainmaker Camille Abousleiman to LeBoeuf after the firm announced that the merger with Orrick would not go ahead.
Abousleiman left with colleague associate Louise Roman Bernstein to head LeBoeuf’s capital markets team. It is widely known that Abousleiman’s opposition to the merger led to his and Roman Bernstein’s departures.
Since the Orrick talks began in October 2006, Dewey has lost a number of key partners. By February 2007 the firm had lost 12 partners, including management committee member and compensation and benefits partner Paul Wessel, who joined Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy that February, and M&A stars Michael Aiello and Jack Bodner, who joined Weil Gotshal & Manges and Covington & Burling respectively.
But although the firm has been harmed by its experience with Orrick, it is ready to take the plunge again. A merged LeBoeuf and Dewey would certainly create a formidable US force in London, forming a firm with a combined turnover of £58.3m and a total of 43 partners and 148 lawyers based in the London office alone.
Gander has been instrumental in the development and success of the firm in Europe, having been involved in the London office launch. The firm forged its presence in the capital through an alliance with banking and finance specialist Theodore Goddard (now Addleshaw Goddard).
Tax partner Gander and his team of one other partner and two associates focused on building an office dedicated to M&A and finance – two of the US’s core practice areas. In the US Dewey also focuses on litigation, tax and international trade.
“We only practised US law at the time,” says Gander. “Things changed very quickly when we started practising UK law in 1996.”
The firm ended its alliance with Theodore Goddard in 1996 to establish its own London base, increasing its number of lawyers to 80 by 1998.
The firm then worked on developing its network of European offices in Italy, Germany and Poland to create a strong group that refers lucrative project finance back to the London office.
Dewey’s focus on Europe intensified after the Orrick talks broke down, instigating a management overhaul to create a new supervisory committee for its five European offices. The 13-strong team replaced the former five-member European steering committee and is responsible for direct strategy, recruitment, training and resources.
Gander heads the group, with regional managing partners from the Frankfurt, Milan, Rome and Warsaw offices taking part, along with firm chairman Mort Pierce.
“A third of the firm’s partners are based in our European offices. We need to realise the importance of these offices to the wider firm. This committee helps us to do this,” says Gander.
As Dewey awaits its partner vote for the merger with LeBoeuf, it seems all the woes of the not-so-distant past have been washed away. Gander’s positive outlook for the firm’s future is apparent.
“Culturally the fit is very good,” he enthuses. “We feel very confident about the merger and how the firms will work together in Europe and in our global offices.”
To hear Peter Sharp, London managing partner of LeBoeuf, talk about the merger, listen to The Lawyer Podcast
Name: Fred Gander
Firm: Dewey Ballantine
Title: managing partner
Firm turnover: UK – £22.4m; global – £222m
Fred Gander’s CV
1986: Magna cum laude, Georgetown University Law Centre
1986-91: Tax associate, Dewey, Washington DC
1991-93: Associate, Dewey, London
1994-98: Partner, Dewey, London
1998-present: Managing partner, Dewey, London
2001-present: Member of management committee
2007: Head of European executive committee