Mudge Rose toughs out crisis period

TROUBLED New York firm Mudge Rose Guthrie Alexander & Ferdon is reportedly in crisis following failed attempts to secure a merger partner.

The 190-lawyer practice, which once courted Coudert Brothers, last week lost its executive committee chair John Kirby who resigned his position after partnership disputes. He remains a partner.

White collar defence lawyer Kenneth Conboy, who is reported to agree with Kirby that the firm should split and market itself in pieces, also quit as a committee member.

There is speculation in New York that Conboy and Kirby are speaking to White & Case.

The firm, led by new chair Donald Zoeller, is believed to be negotiating with Kelley Drye & Warren and the New York office of Graham & James.

Partner Robert Ferdon is also thought to be speaking to the New York branch of O'Melveny & Myers, which took 28 Mudge Rose lawyers last year.

But new executive partner Malcolm Schade said reports that Mudge Rose is about to dissolve are “inaccurate and premature”.

“We are having merger discussions, but we are still operating as a law firm,” he said.

“We have not decided to cease operations, even in the event that there is no merger.”

Former management committee member Carl Lyon, who quit for Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe's New York office in June, said only some Mudge Rose lawyers would benefit from selling the team in pieces.

“The entire firm has an attraction and there is strength in its litigation practice and its public finance reputation.”

But he agreed staying together may not be the best outcome for some partners. He said Kirby and Conboy had earned good revenue – “much better than the firm overall”.

New York lawyers claim the firm's problems arose out of unwillingness by the practice to “face up to itself”.

One said partners needed to “pare down” weak spots and lose unprofitable departments.