Edward Wildman Palmer’s London head Nick Bolter no longer has a formal stake in managing the firm’s City base.
It is understood that management of the firm’s London office has been temporarily placed into the hands of Edwards Wildman’s former managing partner Walter Reed, who headed up the firm between 2008 and 2012.
Sources suggest that the switch occurred earlier this month, among concerns about Bolter’s ambitions to join Cooley with a team of partners from Edward Wildman’s City base (5 August 2014).
Cooley has been in talks with a number of Edwards Wildman partners in London since the summer, with an eye to soon launching its first-ever office in the UK. The California-based firm is understood to have made in principal offers to a number of the Edwards Wildman lawyers, although these are not yet set in stone.
As one source close to the firm put it, “Cooley has been blowing hot and cold”, suggesting that the newcomer is waiting to hear the results of Edward Wildman’s vote on a tie-up with US giant Locke Lord before proceeding any further with the deal (11 September 2014).
The two firms signed a letter of intent to merge in September, and are expected to vote on the $675m tie-up next month. If the merger does go ahead, it is likely to be in early 2015 – either on or shortly after the new US financial year kicks off on 1 January.
However, the extent to which the firm’s London office will be involved in any potential tie-up is still in doubt.
Without Bolter at the helm, Edwards Wildman is left without a senior management role in the City. Its only other partner to have had a stake in firm management, Laurence Harris, stepped down from his global deputy managing partner role in April 2014. At the time, the firm said this was to focus on fee-earning in his litigation practice.
But it is thought that there have been problems brewing in the firm’s City office since at least June, when it was reported that a number of disgruntled partners were looking to leave the firm.
At the time it was also reported that the firm’s management in the US was considering selling off its London office, although Edwards Wildman insisted that there was no truth to the rumour.
Since then, the firm’s London base has lost its entire corporate offering with partner exits including Stuart Blythe to CMS Cameron McKenna, Niall McAllister to Olswang, Shawn Atkinson to Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe (20 June 2014), and former practice head David Ramm to Morgan Lewis (24 July 2014). It is also understood that corporate partner Eero Rautalahti has resigned from the firm, although his destination is unknown.
Earlier this month, IP partner Ben Goodger also quit the firm to join Osborne Clarke (6 October 2014).