LeBoeuf prepares defence against malpractice suit Sidley move breaks downtown tradition

LeBoeuf's former client, Sheraton Corporation, has filed a suit alleging that the US firm seriously mishandled its litigation work.
LeBoeuf was instructed by Sheraton to defend an action brought against it by the owners of a Washington DC hotel. Sheraton issued a counterclaim and both sides demanded substantial sums in damages.
The main claim against the firm is that it presented an associate with insufficient experience to prepare the defence and act as lead counsel during the trial. Sheraton has alleged that associate Scot Gleason, who has since left the firm, had lax supervision and consequently committed a series of errors before and during the trial.
Sheraton has instructed Mayer Brown & Platt litigation partner Robert Ward to handle its claim. Mayer Brown has a longstanding relationship with Sheraton's parent company Starwood Hotels & Resorts. He said: “It's certainly my opinion that this case was tried very poorly. Our complaint is about how the trial was tried rather than who tried it.”
Ward asserted that in his opening statement, Gleason made reference to a number of points which would prove his case. He then failed to produce evidence to support these points. Ward said that he was confident of his case, citing the involvement of two expert witnesses, Judge Herbert Smith and Professor Faust Rossi.
In 1999, a federal jury found against Sheraton to the tune of $50.1m (£35.29m), including a figure for punitive damages of $37.5m (£26.42m). LeBoeuf's involvement in the case lasted four years, between 1995 and 1999. The firm billed a total of $3.5m (£2.47m).
Sheraton is seeking $50.1m(£35.29m) in damages from LeBoeuf, for malpractice and breach of contract. It has issued a second suit claiming damages for the amount of fees paid to LeBoeuf.
LeBoeuf's defence will be conducted by Shearman & Sterling partner Stephen Fishbein. Fishbein said that the suit had no merit and would be vigorously defended.