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Paradigm shift

NEIH 042114_p03_BASILEWeil, Gotshal & Manges’ Boston office has seen more than 20 departures since last year, but no exit has been more prominent — in title, at least — than the recent defection of managing partner Joseph J. Basile.

Basile left for Foley Hoag, where he will serve as partner and co-chair of the firm’s mergers and acquisitions practice.

Basile says he was impressed by Foley’s “philosophy of delivering very personalized, partner-level client support. I think that’s going to be very attractive to the general counsels that are clients of mine.”

He says he was particularly attracted to Foley’s M&A practice, which grows to 56 lawyers with his arrival. At Weil, meanwhile, the focus has shifted primarily to private equity.

“My understanding was that [Basile] was … brought in to try to beef up the Boston office’s public company M&A work, but I never got the sense … that the effort to attract those clients was gaining much traction,” says a lawyer who used to work at Weil and stays in contact with friends there, but does not want to be identified. “So as the office became more PE exclusive, I’m not sure that Joe quite fit in the business plan any more.”

Basile declines to discuss his former firm or his reasons for leaving it.

Marilyn French and Kevin J. Sullivan have been named co-managing partners of Weil’s Boston office.

Weil has been shedding lawyers nationwide since last year, when the firm laid off 60 associates and 110 staff members, cut pay to 10 percent of its partners, and “deemphasized” its complex commercial litigation practices in Boston and Houston.

Steven M. Peck, one of the Boston partners who received a pay cut, left Weil in October to join Proskauer Rose. There were rumors at that time, denied by the firm, that Weil would close its Boston office.

The Boston office now has 28 lawyers (including five partners), down from 44 at the beginning of 2013. The firm plans to relinquish a half-floor of office space at 100 Federal St.

“Given the changes and the de-emphasis of litigation in Boston, we don’t see a need and are going to consolidate on one floor,” Sullivan says.

Sullivan continues to ensure Weil’s long-term presence in Boston, noting that the decline in lawyers is mostly attributable to the scale-down of the commercial litigation practice, and that the office has added first-year associates and lateral hires recently.

“While we’ve had more attorneys in the past, we continue to have very strong and consistent client work here,” Sullivan says. “Private equity is one of our core focuses and core strengths.”


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