Jenkens fire sale prompts merger discussions

The dissolution of Jenkens & Gilchrist’s satellite offices was decided as early as last summer, it has emerged.

Dallas-headquartered Jenkens has also confirmed that it is in emergency talks with Virginia firm Hunton & Williams, among others, about taking on a number of Dallas-based lawyers, where Jenkens currently has 124 fee-earners.

One departing partner told The Lawyer: “This is not a Coudert. Jenkens is not in debt.”

A firm spokesman confirmed that Jenkens had met its financial obligations for 2006, although was not able to provide figures. In 2005 turnover stood at $179m (£98.35m), down from $312m (£216.67m) during the firm’s heyday in 2001. Lawyer numbers also have dropped, from 610 in 2001 to 250 today.

Last week Jenkens succumbed to raids from Nixon Peabody, Baker Hostetler and Jackson Walker on its Chicago, Los Angeles (LA) and San Antonio offices, shutting down operations in the cities, as reported on www.thelawyer. com (28 February).

The departures come six weeks after Fulbright & Jaworksi took the entire tax team from Jenkens’ Houston office (The Lawyer, 15 January).

Jenkens managed the departures when it was decided that all offices apart from Dallas would close and that the firm would downsize to around 250 lawyers.

But a spokesman said it would be wrong to categorise this as an “unravelling” of the firm.

Chicago and LA were Jenken’s only non-Texan outposts. The 56-year-old firm’s New York operation folded in 2005 when the entire 91-lawyer office joined Troutman Sanders.

Jenkens’ problems began in 2003 when a federal investigation found that several tax shelters, which were endorsed mainly by Jenkens’ Chicago-based lawyers, were in fact illegal.

The firm spent three years controlling the damage, including firing the partners responsible and making an $82m (£41.74m) settlement with 1,100 tax shelter investors in 2006.