Dorsey would rather talk about City resurgence than its former partner

Can the firm’s progress in London distract attention away from the Rimmington trial? By Matt Byrne

Tim Maloney
Tim Maloney

Next month a former partner from the London office of Dorsey & Whitney will stand trial accused of insider trading.

Andrew Rimmington is charged along with former McDermott Will & Emery partner Michael McFall with insider trading relating to Novartis’s £305m takeover of biotech company NeuTec in 2006.

For the FSA, which brought the charges, the case will be yet more evidence of its new get-tough approach, the rise of which was signalled dramatically last ­Tuesday (23 March) with the insider dealing-related dawn raids on Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas and hedge fund Moore Capital.

For Dorsey the case will shine unwelcome attention on its City office at a time when its preferred message is one of growth rather than rotten apples.

Last week The Lawyer went to see a group of Dorsey partners, including former Eversheds ­litigator and London office co-head Tim Maloney, to find out more about the trajectory of a Minneapolis-headquartered firm often ­overlooked in terms of its rivals in London.

As one UK recruitment ­consultant says of the firm: “I’m not entirely sure what they’re for. They seem to have lost their way a little.”
Maloney’s response to questions about Rimmington was simple. “Andrew’s no longer a partner at Dorsey and this wasn’t a ­transaction in which Dorsey was instructed,” he said. “As far as the firm’s concerned, it’s had no adverse effect whatsoever.”

Next month’s court case is unlikely to let Dorsey ’move on’ quite that easily, at least in terms of the negative press it is likely to generate and the inevitable tainted image, ­however innaccurate it may be.

But as far as pinpointing the firm’s direction is concerned, ­Maloney was on slightly firmer ground. He said part of the reason he joined Dorsey was because
of its commitment to ­London, ­illustrated particularly by the fact that the office has partners on both its global management and policy committees (respectively arbitrator Paul Klaas and Barry Glazer, the co-head of the office).

“We’re now around 95 per cent UK-qualified lawyers in London, which illustrates the extent to which we’re self-generating our work rather than relying on the US,” said Maloney. “Five years ago it was closer to 50-50 US and UK.”

Dorsey has been busy ­recruiting for both the contentious and non-contentious sides of the London office recently, practices that broadly generate around 50 per cent of its City base’s revenue each.

Last year that total revenue stood at $20.2m (£13.44m) for Dorsey’s 10 (now 11)-partner ­London office. Firmwide Dorsey’s 2009 revenue was $349.9m, down 5 per cent on 2008’s $367m, while average ­profit per equity partner stood at $614,000, a drop of 7 per cent.

The London office hit its ­budget for 2009 although Maloney admitted that this was a budget the firm put together in April, revised down from its original budget in January.
Maloney said the firm made no lawyer layoffs in any office last year, although it did let a number of support staff go. In contrast, the last year has been more about ­hiring than firing in London.
Recent recruits have included Kate Francis, a corporate partner who joined in January this year from DLA Piper, and Matt Doughty, another former DLA Piper partner, who joined Dorsey in June 2009 from the London office of Addleshaw Goddard.

Doughty, a UK public company lawyer, is an integral part of the US firm’s plan to replicate its US model of being a volume play, mid-market M&A shop.

As for disputes, Dorsey is ­probably best known in London for its tax litigation practice ­headed by Simon Whitehead, although Maloney was keen to call attention to the broader ­commercial ­litigation group the City office also houses.

“I’d like to see the London office double in size over the next two to three years,” said a bullish Maloney. “That’s why we’ve been stepping up our recruiting since August 2008.”

He, and the firm, will be hoping that next month’s case does not divert too much attention from that plan.