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In Reversal, Departing DLA Piper Partners Stay Put

April 15, 2015, 4:51 PM

In late March, Hogan Lovells drafted a press release about two new hires: Joseph Tato and Andrianne Payson, two energy-focused lawyers who were set to join as partners from DLA Piper.

But in a sign of how fickle the lateral market can be, both lawyers decided to stay put at DLA Piper.

“We are pleased that they have decided to remain as partners at the firm,” DLA spokesman Josh Epstein said in a brief statement.

Epstein had offered well-wishes to Tato and Payson on March 30. They had been planning to leave DLA Piper because client conflicts were inhibiting their practice, one person who worked with Tato previously told Big Law Business. It was not clear at the time of publication how the conflicts were ultimately resolved or why the deal fell through.

“Joe was going to join, and he’s not going to join anymore,” said Hogan Lovells spokesman Robert Snoddy, who provided no further information. “That’s about it.”

Tato advises power producers, investors, banks and governments in development and finance of power, oil and gas, LNG, telecommunications and other infrastructure projects in the U.S., Africa, Latin America and Europe, according to his DLA Piper website profile, which has not changed.

Lawyers say unexpected client conflicts are increasingly common at large mega firms, such as DLA Piper and Hogan Lovells, which both have thousands of attorneys and offices around the world. Neither Tato nor Payson responded to requests for comment.

Tato advises power producers, investors, banks and governments in development and finance of power, oil and gas, LNG, telecommunications and other infrastructure projects in the U.S., Africa, Latin America and Europe, according to his website profile.

He had been the chair of the now-defunct Dewey & LeBoeuf’s global project and infrastructure practice. His anticipated move to Hogan had signaled to industry observers how some former Dewey partners were not fitting into the firms they joined from the failed New York law firm.

The reversal shows how lateral deals can be delicate transactions.

“It’s never a done deal until the person has gone across the street and is sitting in his or her new chair,” said Avery Ellis, a legal recruiter in Washington, D.C. with Mestel & Co. “You really never know.”

Some lateral partners have even changed their minds after switching firms. For example, in February 2013, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati partner Michael Ringler joined Kirkland & Ellis. Then, only weeks later, in March, Ringler departed Kirkland and returned to Wilson.