UPDATE: 3/5/13, 7:00 p.m. EDT. Barnes & Thornburg has hired Dorsey labor and employment litigation partner Roy Ginsburg in Minneapolis.
With new managing partner Ken Cutler preparing to jet to London as part of a firmwide confidence-building tour, Dorsey & Whitneywhose gross revenue dropped for the fifth straight year in 2012lost its tax practice Monday in the U.K. capital to local commercial litigation boutique Hage Aaronson.
As first reported by U.K. publication The Lawyer, the former Dorsey lawyers joining Hage Aaronson are Simon Whitehead, who served as Dorsey's local tax head, partner Paul Farmer, solicitor and special counsel Robert Waterson, and barrister Philippe Freund. None of the four immediately responded to after-hours requests for comment about their decision to leave Dorsey.
News of the defections came the same day that the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that Cutler was bound for London on a preplanned visit to Dorsey's office in the city as part of a broader effort to shore up confidence during an unsettled time for the 101-year-old Am Law 100 firm.
Cutler's London foray comes a little more than two months after he began a three-year term as managing partner, which as The Am Law Daily reported in December, he was tapped to fill following the abrupt departure of predecessor Marianne Short. Elected to head Dorsey in 2007, Short remains one of the few women to lead an Am Law 100 firm, one she left in November to become general counsel of UnitedHealth Group.
A transactional partner and 39-year Dorsey veteran, Cutler took the reins at Dorsey two months after the firm brought on its first-ever chief financial officer in Heller Ehrman alum Richard Holdrup, whose hire came three months after Dorsey laid off 20 support staffers, 12 of whom were from its Minneapolis headquarters, according to our previous reports.
Those cuts represented at least the second round of layoffs at Dorsey since the onset of the global economic downturn in 2008. The firm previously trimmed 55 staffers from its ranks in early 2009. In the years that followed, the number of lawyers at the firm also dropped, falling from 670 in 2008 to 531 in 2012, according to annual attorney head count data compiled by sibling publication The National Law Journal.
Dorsey spokesman Bob Kleiber tells The Am Law Daily that while the firm is sad to see its former London colleagues leave, he notes that no one is irreplaceable. "The tax litigation practice in our London office, while very successful, was also a very specialized practice that was not integrated with our advocacy and transactional practices across our platform," he adds. "It was a detachable piece of our presence in London with no client overlaps, and its loss will not have a significant negative impact on the firm."
The Am Law Daily caught up with Cutler via email as he prepared to fly to London on a trip that had been planned for some time and was not in response to the departures of the tax team to Hage Aaronson. Cutler says Dorsey has no plans to conduct any further layoffs and that the firm is currently focused on growing its mid-market M&A, litigation, and health care practice areas.
The firm, he adds, also wants to continue expanding in Asia, where it formed an alliance in Shanghai with local firm Martin Hu & Partners in late 2011. Given that he has only been managing partner for about eight weeks, Cutler says the details of those plans are currently being worked out with Dorsey's management committee.
Asked about potential merger partnersDorsey's Minneapolis-based rival Faegre & Benson merged last year with Baker & Daniels in a move that effectively doubled its gross revenue for 2012Cutler says that his firm is "always open to strategic and cultural fits but we are not in any current discussions."