White & Case says it has hired a trio of partners from Sidley Austin, including the recently named co-leaders of the firm’s bankruptcy practice, Jessica Boelter and Bojan Guzina.
For White & Case, the additions continue an aggressive hiring strategy at a time when other firms are retrenching amidst the pandemic. It is also a sign that the largest firms, whose finances during the crisis have fared better than their smaller peers, can still afford to pay top dollar to recruit rival talent.
“Our Restructuring practice has been built on the strength of our unique ability to drive commercial outcomes by effectively marshalling the firm’s vast resources across multiple disciplines and jurisdictions,” Thomas Lauria, who heads the firm’s global financial restructuring and insolvency practice, said. “We are now being increasingly called on to use that experience to assist companies in need of ‘bet-the-company’ advice.”
The departures of Boelter and Guzina marks the second time Sidley has lost its bankruptcy practice leadership since June. The exits create a vacancy atop a practice group that has been an economic engine for many firms as bankruptcies this year hit record levels due to the coronavirus crisis.
White & Case has also hired Chicago-based litigator Michael Andolina, a Sidley veteran of more than 20 years who served a leadership role in the firm’s Windy City litigation group, for its global commercial litigation practice.
“We wish Jessica, Bojan and Michael well in this next chapter of their careers,” Larry Barden, chair of Sidley’s Management Committee, told Bloomberg Law in a statement provided by email. “Our global restructuring and litigation groups are thriving and will continue to be a focus as we help guide our clients through their most complex business issues during these challenging times.”
New York-based Boelter and Chicago-based Guzina were named co-chairs of Sidley’s bankruptcy practice earlier this year. Boelter and Guzina had been at Sidley since graduating law school in 2002.
James Conlan, a rainmaker who had been Sidley’s restructuring practice co-chair, and Patrick Corr, who had been Sidley’s European restructuring practice leader, joined Faegre Drinker in June. Conlan had an active debtor-side practice at Sidley, leading major Chapter 11 bankruptcies including auto parts manufacturer Maremont Corp., Tribune Co., and yellow-pages publisher R.H. Donnelley Corp.
A Conlan-led Sidley team also paired with White & Case lawyers in 2011 to represent Houston-based energy company Dynegy Inc. in its Chapter 11 case.
Growth and Demand
Bankruptcy lawyers are in high demand to the point that some firms have gone so far as to reassign younger lawyers internally to bankruptcy work and create task forces to train attorneys on this area of the law.
The lateral hiring market for bankruptcy partners has flourished since there are a relatively limited number of attorneys experienced in guiding large companies through the process.
White & Case leaders have said the firm is pursuing a growth strategy that envisions having 500 lawyers in New York and London, with a focus on building out strength in M&A, private equity, capital markets, and dispute resolution.
In recent months, the firm hired a four-lawyer team from Winston & Strawn well-known for its work with special purchase acquisition companies, or SPACs, which are booming in popularity. Tara Lee, former co-chair of the national trial practice at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, joined the firm’s Washington office. Former Holland & Knight M&A partner Germaine Gurr joined the firm in New York.
The largest firms have outperformed smaller firms in the wake of the coronavirus, creating expectations that the winners will use their relatively full coffers to recruit new partners from other firms.
Sidley and White & Case are two of the largest and wealthiest law firms in the country, each bringing in more than $2 billion in revenue in 2019, according to AmLaw data. Sidley’s average equity partner earned $2.8 million in 2019, compared to about $2.6 million for White & Case.
Meghan Tribe contributed to this report.