Jenkens closes LA as exodus continues

Texan firm Jenkens & Gilchrist suffered further meltdown as it lost its entire Los Angeles office to Ohio-headquartered Baker Hostetler and most of its Chicago office to newcomer Nixon Peabody.

Nineteen lawyers, including LA managing partner John Cermak, will join rival Baker Hostetler’s LA office, closing down Jenkens’ West Coast operations. The exodus follows that of four Texas-based Jenkens lawyers who joined Baker Hostetler earlier this month. Jenkens’ only remaining office outside of Texas is Chicago.

But in Chicago, a raid by Nixon Peabody has decimated the office, leaving it with just five fee-earners. Nixon Peabody, launching in the Windy City, took 15 IP lawyers from Jenkens.

Meanwhile, the arrival of Jenkens’ lawyers doubles Baker Hostetler’s LA offering, to 54 lawyers. The firm’s LA managing partner Dave Sampson said: “It’s a win for our current team, a win for the team joining us and, most important, a win for our clients.”

As reported in The Lawyer (15 January), it was only six weeks ago that Houston-headquartered Fulbright & Jaworksi took the entire tax team from Jenkens’ Houston office, including Houston managing partner Andrius Kontrimas.

Jenkens has suffered since a federal prosecutor investigation three years ago unearthed questionable advice on tax shelters by three Jenkens lawyers in the Chicago office.

The New York office lost 91 lawyers in 2005 to Troutman Sanders, and in 2006 the firm made an $82m (£42.4m) settlement with 1,100 tax-shelter investors.

Jenkens chairman Patrick Mitchell said in a statement: “For several months we have been working closely with our Los Angeles office as we have jointly explored strategic options for the firm. As a result of these efforts, Jenkens & Gilchrist’s Los Angeles office will be moving their practice to Baker Hostetler, effective March 1, 2007. We will certainly miss our friends and colleagues in Los Angeles, but we understand that this move holds great promise for the lawyers and professional staff who have been dedicated members of our team. We wish continued success for our Chicago colleagues.”