Two ex-Edwards Wildman partners launch legal action against firm and managing partner

Two former partners at US firm Edwards Wildman Palmer are suing the firm and its managing partner Walter Reed in relation to the alleged fallout of a romantic affair.

Estate planning lawyer Lawrence Cohen claims that an affair between his wife Laurie Hall, also a partner at the firm, and Reed led to Cohen and Jay Rosenbaum being forced out of their jobs.

According to a suit filed in Delaware’s Chancery Court, the alleged affair led to Cohen and Rosenbaum, who both joined Nixon Peabody in November 2011, being excluded from key partner meetings ahead of the merger between Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge and Wildman Harrold.

Cohen also claims that the affair resulted in his pay being cut and that he was asked to divide his clients with Hall, from whom he is now separated.

The 19-page civil complaint details how Reed allegedly chose Hall to lead merger talks even though she had “no experience in negotiating mergers or managing corporate deals”.

The complaint goes on to say: “Reed included Hall and excluded Cohen with respect to the merger negotiations in order to advance his own personal and romantic interests and those of Hall, instead of acting in the best interests of the partnership.”

The firms officially announced their merger in August last year (15 August 2011) – three months before Hall and Reed  announced their romance at a partner meeting along with their intentions of divorcing their respective spouses.

Both Cohen and Rosenbaum are seeking damages for constructive discharge and breach of fiduciary duty.

Reed announced his intention to step down as managing partner in December, citing “personal health reasons”.  He will return to a full-time fee-earning position at Edwards Wildman in the next three months.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Edwards Wildman said: “The allegations of breach of fiduciary duty and constructive discharge and the requested relief in the complaint are not warranted. They don’t provide a basis for any legitimate claims, and the firm will vigorously defend against them. Since the allegations are now in litigation, our response will be in that forum.

“Walter Reed has been a valued member of our firm for over 30 years, most recently serving as our managing partner. He advised the firm in November 2011 that he would step down as managing partner in early 2012 for personal and health reasons, and we publicly confirmed that decision in December. Our senior management in November established a process to appoint MrReed’s successor, which is well underway.”