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Katten Nine-Partner Environmental Group Said to Join Baker Botts (1)

Sept. 27, 2019, 7:07 PM; Updated: Sept. 27, 2019, 8:58 PM

Katten Muchin Rosenman will be losing nine partners to Baker Botts and shuttering small offices in the San Francisco Bay Area and Austin, according to an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg Law.

The departing partners practice in the environmental and workplace safety group across Washington, the San Francisco Bay Area, Houston and Austin, the memo said. The Bay Area and Austin offices, it said, house three and two lawyers, respectively,

The memo described the departure as a result of a new three-year strategic plan Katten began implementing last year. The plan includes “further development of our practices in the finance and financial markets sectors,” the memo said.

Members of the firm’s environmental and workplace safety group held discussions with firm leadership and determined “they will be more successful” at a firm “more involved” in the oil, gas and chemical industries, according to the memo. .

Baker Botts is a Texas-founded firm that has a long history in the oil and gas industry. A number of its energy practices are highly ranked by Chambers & Associates. Those include practices like liquid natural gas projects and oil and gas transactions.

The partners named in the memo making the move at the end of the month are: Steve Solow, Nadira Clarke, Anne Carpenter, Natalia Sorgente, Lily Chinn, Matthew Baker, Scott Elliott, Greg Dillard, and Danny Worrell.

“We have greatly enjoyed working with our departing colleagues over the past several years, and we wish them well in their new endeavors,” the memo said.

A Baker Botts spokesman did not comment on the names of the lawyers said to be joining the firm, but said in a statement that the firm is “always in the market to enhance our premier environmental, health and safety crisis response capabilities.”

“We will continue to add talent that provides the strategic and cultural fit required to sustain the exemplary level of business and legal judgment that our clients expect from us in their most high-profile and sensitive [environmental, health and safety] matters,” the statement said.

Solow is a former chief of the environmental crimes section of the Department of Justice and has handled a wide range of high-stakes environmental lawsuits, according to his firm bio. He has served as a member of Katten’s board of directors and previously was head of its white collar, investigations and compliance practice in Washington.

Solow did not immediately return request for comment. A Katten spokeswoman confirmed the memo was sent to firm lawyers on Friday.

Katten publicly mentioned its strategic plan’s finance focus in August when it announced a firm-wide re-brand.

“We intend to reinforce our position as a go-to firm in the finance and financial markets space while continuing to trumpet our considerable strengths in many other industries and practice areas,” Chairman Roger Furey said at the time.

Since launching an office in Dallas in early 2018 with a group of lawyers from Andrews Kurth Kenyon (now Hunton Andrews Kurth), Katten’s presence there has grown to nearly 40 lawyers. A number of those lawyers practice in the healthcare space with a focus on financial matters.

Last year, the firm recruited a five-lawyer team from Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle led by Steven Reisman. Reisman had been co-chair of the firm’s restructuring and insolvency practice and has been referred to as rap star Drake’s “favorite lawyer.”

Katten also saw a four-partner finance team based in Chicago depart for Blank Rome in June. That group was led by Kenneth Ottaviano, who had been a member of Katten’s board of directors.

Baker Botts and Katten appear remarkably similar from a financial standpoint.

Baker Botts’ $678.2 million in revenue in 2018 was slightly higher than Katten’s $634.9 million, according to the most recent AmLaw rankings. Revenue per lawyer was virtually identical last year at both firms, coming in at $958,000, the rankings said. That figure is often cited as the best indicator of a law firm’s financial health.

(Updates with information on Katten re-brand, recent hires and departures throughout.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Roy Strom in Chicago at rstrom@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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