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Boies Said to Mull Buying Firms, Step Up Lawyer Recruiting

Jan. 29, 2021, 5:52 PM

David Boies is looking to stem the tide of departures from his embattled law firm by recruiting partners from rivals and targeting smaller firms for possible acquisition, both moves recommended by a consultant.

Boies Schiller Flexner retained legal recruiter Harrison Barnes to identify potential hires and compile an acquisition target list, Barnes and a source familiar with the situation told Bloomberg Law. Barnes, the founder of BCG Attorney Search, told Bloomberg Law he is focusing much of that effort on the West Coast.

Boies Schiller is looking to turn the corner on an exodus of more than 60 partners, including former co-managing partner Nicholas Gravante and high-profile litigators Karen Dunn and Bill Isaacson. The firm recently installed a new leadership team, designed at least publicly to shift some day-to-day control away from Boies and firm founder Jonathan Schiller.

At the same time, the firm is distancing itself from a slew of other options laid out by Barnes in a sprawling Jan. 10 report to Boies, obtained by Bloomberg Law.

Barnes suggested in the nearly 40-page report that Boies Schiller slash its roster of attorneys, bring in a new team of professional managers, and consider merging with competitor Quinn Emanuel. He also paused to cite the infamous 1964 Kitty Genovese murder, discuss the careers of self-help guru Tony Robbins and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, and offer his purchase of a $15 million Southern California home as lesson in the dangers of hubris.

“This ‘report’ was entirely unsolicited,” a firm spokesperson told Bloomberg Law. “It was done without our knowledge or our participation. The firm has a clear strategy for the future, which we are executing.”

‘Fight Back’

Among the options, Barnes floated acquiring a smaller firm like California litigation shop Hueston Hennigan or merging with a large firm like Quinn Emanuel.

“This combination would be unstoppable and create an enduring brand,” Barnes said of a potential tie up with Quinn Emanuel. The firm is among the 25 largest in the country, bringing in nearly $1.3 billion last year, according to AmLaw data.

Gravante, who was made co-managing partner as part of an earlier effort to elevate new leadership at Boies Schiller, left the firm in January for Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft. His departure—among some 60 partners that have left since the beginning of last year—came less than a year after he was named to the role. It followed Gravante’s unsuccessful effort to convince Boies and Schiller to try to merge their firm with Cadwalader.

The 79-year-old Boies has been the subject of recent public criticism, stemming largely from his work for disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of defunct health tech company Theranos. In a December interview with Bloomberg Law, the famed litigator acknowledged that he has struggled with managing other attorneys and getting rid of those who don’t pull their weight.

Barnes urged Boies to consider bringing in a “professional management team,” including a chief executive officer, as well as finance, technology, and public relations experts.

The headhunter also conceded that he has some personal experience with public criticism, which he offered as a learning opportunity for Boies.

Barnes reportedly took a leave of absence following a 2017 Above the Law report detailing sexist remarks about legal recruiters. He referenced the episode in his report to Boies, writing that Barnes should have “gotten mad” and “fought back to prove them all wrong.”

“Getting mad is confronting issues straight up and fighting,” Barnes wrote. “This is what you might do.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergindustry.com