When we last wrote about goings-on at Howrey, the once-strong law firm now experiencing troubled times, we mentioned the possibility of partner losses in the Chicago office. The firm pushed back on this, denying knowledge of any imminent defections in the Windy City.
It now seems, however, that additional partner departures may be on the horizon — in Chicago, and elsewhere too. As reported in Crain’s Chicago Business (via WSJ Law Blog), the Chi-town powerhouse of Winston & Strawn recently discussed a possible merger with Howrey — but then decided against that approach, opting instead to pick off specific groups and partners from Howrey.
The Howrey situation is starting to look a lot like what happened to Heller Ehrman. A well-respected firm with a widely admired culture encounters business difficulties. Key partners and groups start leaving for greener pastures or more stable platforms. A potential white knight emerges — Mayer Brown in Heller’s case, and Winston & Strawn in Howrey’s — but then decides to order a la carte from the menu of partners and practices, instead of going for the chef’s tasting menu.
Twenty-plus years ago, I was a second year law student at UVA in the midst of summer associate interviewing. I had an on-campus interview with Howrey. A few days later, two letters from Howrey showed up in my mailbox. One invited me up to DC for an call-back interview. The other was a rejection letter. Oddly, both were signed by the same partner. I called the partner to inquire, but only go to his secretary. I told her my inquiry--which letter should I act upon?--and she put me on hold. After consulting with her boss, I hope and assume, she got back on the line and told me it would not be necessary for me to come to DC. It still rankles. A bit.
So I'm going to dissent from admiring Howrey's culture and root for the vulture. A bit.