Firms Unite to Fight Howrey Unfinished Business Suits

August 30, 2013

Two and a half years after Howrey's March 2011 dissolution scattered the firm's partnership across the legal universe, some of those former colleagues have reunited to take aim at the defunct firm's chapter 11 bankruptcy trustee, Allan Diamond, the American Law Daily reported today. This week, six firms—including Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman; Ropes & Gray; Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg; and Shearman & Sterling—filed a joint defense motion in response to suits Diamond filed against each of them earlier this year in bankruptcy court. In the lawsuits, Diamond seeks the return of money from client matters that Howrey partners took with them to their new professional homes in the months prior to their former firm's collapse. Based on the hotly contested legal precedent established through the 1984 California case known as Jewel v. Boxer, the suits claim the Howrey estate has an ownership right over work started before the firm dissolved. In a 75-page memo filed on Monday supporting the group's motion to dismiss the suits, the firms—a group that also includes Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman and Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton—argue that because nearly all of the ex-Howrey partners at the six firms in question left before the defunct firm voted to dissolve, "the unfinished business doctrine does not apply here."