When the news finally came last week it took few by surprise – after a year of turmoil in which Howrey’s most high-profile partners jumped ship, the firm finally announced its dissolution.
After refusing to comment on rumours of its demise for more than a month, it finally confirmed the inevitable last Wednesday (10 March).
In a statement Howrey chairman and CEO Bob Ruyak said: “The firm had experienced disappointing financial performance over the past two years and subsequently several partners resigned. This resulted in the conclusion that an orderly wind-down of the firm’s activities over time was the only practical alternative.”
While the announcement may not have come as much of a surprise, the speed of Howrey’s disintegration has. In 2008 the firm reported a record revenue of $573.2m (£355.7m) and an average profit per equity partner (PEP) figure of $1.3m. The first sign of the trouble that was to come was when the firm announced its 2009 figures, which showed a 16 per cent slump in revenue and a 35 per cent fall in PEP. Its 2010 figures remain unavailable.
In January, before Howrey erected its wall of silence, The Lawyer (10 January) conducted a revealing interview with Ruyak, who claimed client conflicts were responsible for the departures in Europe. He also claimed the firm was exploring the option of further acquisitions.
Days later, when the departures began spreading to the US – most notably the defection of vice-chair Henry Bunsow to Dewey & LeBouef – Ruyak began rounding on the media.
“In the past few weeks we have seen several negative articles in the press and on the blogs about Howrey,” he said an email sent to employees, which was leaked to The Lawyer. “They are upsetting to read and, without a true factual basis, have created questions about a firm to which we have all devoted so much time and energy.”