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A Lawyer’s DéJà Vu Experience at a Collapsing Firm

The decline of Dewey & LeBoeuf proves to be familiar to an attorney who was previously at Howrey.

Nobody understands the turmoil the legal industry has endured recently better than Marc Schildkraut. The prominent antitrust lawyer is practicing at his third collapsing law firm in four years. As of mid-May, Schildkraut is a partner in the Washington office of Dewey & LeBoeuf, a New York-based firm born of the 2007 merger between Dewey Ballantine and LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae. In Washington, Dewey had more than 100 lawyers. But in recent months, more than half of its 300 partners have left amid falling profits. One reported factor in Dewey’s downfall was its habit of overpromising what it could pay partners. It’s nearly certain Dewey won’t survive.

The scene is familiar for Schildkraut. He joined Dewey & LeBoeuf in March of last year, days after his former firm, Howrey, dissolved. By the time Schildkraut left Howrey, the lawyers there were in chaos. “When Howrey imploded, these partners were getting calls not only from multiple recruiters representing different firms but directly from partners they knew at interested firms,” says Washington legal recruiter Stephen Nelson. “The combination of a short time frame and the absence of a trusted adviser could lead to an overly hasty decision.”

Schildkraut, who declined to comment, wasn’t the only Howrey lawyer to choose Dewey. Roxann Henry, M.J. Moltenbrey, Mark Schechter, and Jacqueline Grise also sought refuge there. But Schildkraut is the only one of the group to have practiced previously at Heller Ehrman, the San Francisco-based firm that went under at the end of 2008. There he was cochair of the antitrust-and-trade-regulation practice. His move from Heller Ehrman to Howrey in spring 2008 was less rushed—Heller’s demise was still months away.

The bad luck doesn’t reflect Schildkraut’s talents. He’s worked on several of the country’s highest-profile mergers. No doubt he’s weighing his next move carefully.

This article appears in the June 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

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