Weil Mum as Texas Partner Losses Mount
Weil, Gotshal & Manges's partner head count in Texas continued to dwindle Monday, with Sidley Austin following its recent hire of an eight-partner Dallas-based Weil team by plucking private equity and M&A partner S. Scott Parel from its Am Law 100 rival's depleted Big D outpost.
Parel's move to Sidley—first reported Friday by law360 and confirmed in a press release issued by his new firm—makes him the 15th partner to leave Weil's locations in Dallas and Houston in less than a month. And though the Houston losses are hitting an office identified by Weil earlier this year as one it planned to deemphasize amid broader associate and staff layoff and partner compensation cuts, the Dallas defections don't fall into the same category.
As they did when contacted about the other recent partner losses in Texas, Weil press representatives declined to comment Monday on Parel's move to Sidley.
The spate of departures began September 11, when private equity and M&A partner Michael Saslaw left for Vinson & Elkins. Six days later, Sidley announced that it had hired eight Weil partners in Dallas, including complex commercial litigation cohead Yvette Ostolaza, a member of Weil's executive committee, and Angela Fontana, the former cohead of Weil's banking and finance practice. Sidley has announced that Ostolaza will succeed James Bradley as managing partner of its Dallas office when he retires in January.
Last week it was Houston—where the complex commercial litigation practice had been targeted for cuts—that saw partners begin to peel off. On Monday, patent litigation partner Nicolas Barzoukas jumped to Baker Botts, and on Thursday, Weil's Houston managing partner, John Strasburger, and three other partners left for Winston & Strawn. (Though Winston has not yet announced the hires, a source familiar with the move confirmed that the four are indeed headed there.)
Sidley executive committee chair Carter Phillips says he believes Parel was ripe to be recruited because of his ties to the eight partners who preceded him in moving to Sidley and his close working relationship with three of those lawyers. Phillips adds that while recruiting the new additions in Dallas, he has sensed "a genuine concern among all the Texas partners about Weil's commitment to that region." Whatever ultimately drove their decision to move, he says, the lawyers coming aboard were too good to pass up. "This process was less geographic than strategic. For this cluster of attorneys, we would have opened an office in the area if we did not already have one there."
Phillips declined to comment on whether he expects Parel to bring any associates or clients along with him, but said he would not be surprised if that happened. He also said Sidley has no imminent plans to recruit anyone else from Weil's Dallas office, but stopped short of ruling out the possibility.
Asked about the fact that all nine partners who have left Weil for Sidley of late continue to be listed on their former firm's website, Phillips acknowledged that the new hires are bound by a 60-day notice period but expressed some bafflement about why they are being held to it.
"Weil, for some reason [that is] unclear to me, is enforcing it," he said. "Historically it has always been waived."