Former Dentons Leader Joins MoFo in London

, The Am Law Daily

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Howard Morris
Howard Morris

Four months after saying he planned to leave the firm now known as Dentons, former SNR Denton co-CEO Howard Morris has moved to Morrison & Foerster as senior of counsel and head of MoFo's bankruptcy and restructuring practice in London.

As CEO of what was then U.K. firm Denton Wilde Sapte, Morris helped orchestrate the 2010 tie-up that united his firm with U.S.-based Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal. He and Sonnenschein leader Elliot Portnoy became co-CEOs of the newly formed SNR Denton, but Morris relinquished that title in March 2011 and moved to New York to help integrate the two firms.

Last year, SNR Denton joined forces in a three-way Swiss verein with European firm Salans and Canada's Fraser Milner Casgrain to become Dentons. That combined firm is now in talks to grow again, this time via a proposed tie-up with U.S.–based McKenna Long & Aldridge, an Am Law 100 firm. The McKenna and Dentons partnerships were initially scheduled to conclude a vote on combining as of Nov. 14, but those votes are not yet complete, according to affiliate publication Daily Report. Firm representatives told the Daily Report the deal remains alive.

Morris said that after two years of working on the SNR Denton integration—a task he described as "getting everyone to share their toys"—he decided to move back to London in July for family reasons. It was at that point he informed firm management of his intention to resign. Since then, he has been on "unofficial gardening leave," he said, with Nov. 15 being his final day at Dentons.

Morris had been with his former firm since 1991, when he joined what was then Denton Hall from Allen & Overy. He said it was time to move on after 22 years and that it will be "fantastic" to practice full-time again after spending roughly eight years in a management role. "I never meant to stay in management as long as I did," said Morris, 56. "What I always wanted to be is to be a lawyer." At MoFo, he plans to focus on cross-border and pan-European transactions and insolvency proceedings.

Though Morris declined to comment specifically on any of Dentons' recent combinations or on its talks with McKenna, he said the current volume of law firm merger activity has been predicted for some time. "The great challenge is to provide the benefits of a larger, more global firm and provide service at the same high standards everywhere," he said, adding that the growing number of firms that can handle large, international transactions is good for the profession and for clients.

In touting Morris' hire in a press release, MoFo pointed to a number of recent bankruptcy and restructuring assignments its lawyers have worked on, including representing Residential Capital in its massive Chapter 11 case and the MF Global trustee in its Chapter 11 proceedings, both in New York, and helping to develop Iceland's insolvency laws.

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