Is Dewey partner Henry Bunsow the Angel of Death?

April 30, 2012

Last month, a prominent intellectual property partner at Dewey & LeBoeuf told Casey Sullivan at the Los Angeles Daily Journal that Dewey was indeed putting off partner shares, but he said it wasn’t a big deal. Such deferred payments, said Henry Bunsow, are common. “I have confidence that (partners) will be treated fairly within the parameters of what the firm is dealing with,” he said. (The Daily Journal story is behind a paywall, but Above the Law has generous excerpts.)

How does Bunsow — who has an enviable client list and an impressive trial record — happen to know so much about troubled firms and deferred partner payments? Because before he joined Dewey in 2011, he was vice chairman of Howrey. And before that, in the early 1990s, Bunsow was a partner at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison. In case you’re not a student of the history of defunct law firms, Brobeck shut down in January 2003 after failed merger talks with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. Howrey imploded last March following a stream of partner defections. And we all know that Dewey has lost scores of partners and (as Reuters has reported) hired bankruptcy counsel this year. That’s quite a tough history: one partner, two failed law firms and a third in deep trouble.

Bunsow certainly wasn’t responsible for the collapse of Brobeck or Howrey, and not all of his former firms have met such unfortunate ends. Before Brobeck, he was a partner at Townsend and Townsend and Crew, which merged with Kilpatrick Stockton last year. And between Brobeck and Howrey he did a stint at Keker & Van Nest, which remains a preeminent litigation boutique.

Bunsow didn’t return my call, but I did speak with his old friend Hopkins Guy, who recently left Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe to join Baker Botts. Guy said that, whatever happens at Dewey, he’s not worried about Bunsow, who’s well known as a Delaware and East Texas IP trial lawyer. “He’s a very good trial attorney,” Guy said. “He’s going to land on his feet. Whoever hires him will be lucky to get him.”

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