Was it a case of pre-merger nerves? The departure of Dewey Ballantine partners Earle O’Donnell and Donna Attanasio for White & Case certainly looks like it.

Just one month before the US firm’s deal with Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe is due to be signed, two of the US’s most prominent energy lawyers have deserted the firm.

Their exit not only rips the heart out of Dewey’s stateside energy practice, it raises questions about the probability of the latest US mega-merger only a month after it was given the green light by both sets of management ( 25 October).

It can’t be scale they’re worried about. Post-merger Dewey Orrick will have a combined revenue of approximately US$1bn (£518m), putting it among the top ten US firms in Am Law’s top 100 and 14th in The Lawyer Global 100 2006. White & Case is currently 10th in The Lawyer’s list, with a revenue of $1.046bn (£574.7m).

But whatever the reason, the duo could be forgiven for being spooked. Any merger is fraught with potential tensions and if one well-placed, London-based Orrick insider is to be believed, this one is no different.
“There is a lot still to sort out including how to ensure that the culture of Orrick is maintained,” said the mole.

Dewey’s too, by the look of it.

Matt Byrne, associate editor