The Sky Seems to Be Falling at Pierce Bainbridge and Don Lewis’ Former Partners Appear to Believe They Have No Responsibility
Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP has had tough several months. E-mails, texts and slack exchanges have surfaced portraying the firm in a negative light. Former partner Don Lewis says the firm’s Managing Partner John Pierce uses “human pawns” to do his bidding. The list appears to include Michael Yim of Putney Twombly — facing claims of legal malpractice, S. Jeanine Conley of Littler Mendelson — facing claims of “attorney deceit”, as well as Christopher N. LaVigne and Denver G. Edwards – facing potential felony exposure for allegedly lying in sworn affidavits. Dishonesty at Pierce Bainbridge has also been a Lewis theme, a review of the “The Over the Top Rhetoric” below is remarkably illuminating.
An Ugly Two Weeks
It has been a very rough two weeks for Pierce Bainbridge:
The $1,000,000,000 Misrepresentation. Lewis said that Pierce and firm General Counsel Carolynn Beck told a litigation funder – Pravati Capital LLC in May 2018 – that a case had a prospective value of $1,000,000,000, which he says Pierce and Beck knew was not true. United States District Court Judge Anita B. Brody just dismissed the case — threw it out completely — before it even went to trial. The Pierce Bainbridge so-called $1 Billion Case resulted in zero dollars of recovery. (The successful defense was led by Ambika Doran, Elizabeth A. McNamara and Alison Brooke Schary of Davis Tremaine LLP, and William T. Hangly and Bonnie M. Hoffman of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller.)
Lewis said: “No one should be surprised by this, not even Pierce Bainbridge. The prior lawyer advised his client after 16 months of working on the case to settle for $400,000. Yet Pierce and Beck were concurrently telling a lender (Pravati) it was worth a mind-boggling $1 BILLION.”
The California State Bar Investigation. The President of a former Pierce Bainbridge client advised that, after months of the preliminary investigation, the California State Bar has opened a “full-blown investigation” into Pierce and Pierce Bainbridge. Pierce and Jonathan Sorkowitz handled the case; severe discipline up to, and including, disbarment has been requested.
Partner Exodus. Six partners hired at the firm within the last year apparently abandoned the Pierce Bainbridge ship. Michael Winograd, Robert Allen, Jeffrey Alexander, Deborah Renner, Joan Meyer and Susan Winkler (the “Departed Six”). It is rare for partners to come and go so quickly, for six of them to do so is alarming.
The Over the top Rhetoric
The Departed Six appear to have been duped by Pierce’s over the top embellishment. In light of recent events, it is fascinating to revisit media coverage concerning their hiring.
Deborah Renner; article December 3, 2018
(Renner has worked for Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP; Sonnenschein Nath and Rosenthal; and Baker & Hostetler LLP; Renner was widely known as the “lead attorney” for Trustee Irving Picard in unwinding the fraudulent activity of Bernie Madoff).
Pierce: “Pierce Bainbridge already has the best general commercial, intellectual property, and white-collar practices in the world by a wide margin…The most talented lawyers from the top Am Law 200 firms are seeing very clearly that we are the future. This is still just the beginning of the talent the market will see flood to our cutting-edge, mission-oriented, happy-warrior litigation platform in the months to come.”
Jeff Alexander; press release on February 4, 2019
(Alexander has worked for Latham & Watkins; Labaton Sucharow LLP; Bleichmar Fonti & Auld LLP and Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP)
- “Our level of talent is simply unmatched at this point. We have built a better mousetrap, pure and simple.” – John Pierce, a former K&L Gates, Latham & Watkins and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan partner.
- Pierce: “The traditional Am Law 100 firms simply cannot compete with us in the digital age. We litigate 10 times better, 10 times faster, and at a fraction of the cost. It is not a linear difference—it is exponential.”
Robert Allen; press release on February 13, 2019
- Allen: “I am excited and privileged to be part of such an energetic team of talented lawyers, unafraid of tackling cutting edge issues in pursuit of effective and efficient justice for its clients.”
- Pierce: We could not be more thrilled that Tom (Warren) and Rob (Allen) have chosen Pierce Bainbridge as their new home,” said the firm’s Managing Partner John Pierce. “Both are luminaries in their respective fields and deepen our white-collar and IP benches. February 2019 has proven to be another huge month for the firm as we continue rocketing toward market domination.”
Michael Winograd and Joan Meyer; press release on March 4, 2019.
(Winograd worked for Sullivan & Cromwell LLP; Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati LLP and Ropes & Gray)
- Winograd: “This was an opportunity that I just could not pass up… elite litigators cherry-picked from top firms and government offices… It’s an exciting time to join Pierce Bainbridge. As our current trajectory shows, the sky is the limit.”
- Meyer: “It’s a privilege to join Pierce Bainbridge. It is a dynamic, top-quality firm that has a new vision about how lawyers serve their clients. It is growing so fast because clients want the drive and initiative this firm brings to the table. I am proud to be a part of it.”
- Pierce: “Mike (Winograd) and Joan (Meyer) take our white-collar and complex litigation capabilities to a whole new level … [it is] the best proof that our new way of doing things in the digital age works.”
Susan Winkler hiring; press release on March 12, 2019
(Winkler worked for 25 years in the United States Attorneys Office in Boston, Massachusetts)
- Winkler: “It is an honor to join Pierce Bainbridge as it opens the Boston office… the opportunity to join these elite trial practitioners with their vision for effective and efficient top-flight litigation was too exciting to pass up. I am happy to be part of the team.”
- Pierce: “With the addition of Susan (Winkler), Frank (Velie) and Jonathan (Kortmansky), our white-collar capabilities have become truly unparalleled.”
“Unmatched,” “Phenomenon,” “Elite,” “Top-Flight,” “Unparalleled,” “Best in the World,” “Most Talent,” “Wide Margin,” and “Sky is the Limit.”
Lewis says: “These words are better suited to John Pierce’s propensity to lie. That is exactly what Pierce Bainbridge did about false allegations against me, they lied.”
Interestingly, Five of the Departed Six have experience in white-collar crime and/or fraud.
The lawyer for Lewis’ former partners (all of whom remain at the firm, with the exception of one) recently argued in Court that they bear no responsibility for the wrongs done to their former partner. Lewis says: “They want the title, they definitely want the money, but they don’t want the responsibility. That’s just not right.”
*** The Pierce Bainbridge Defendants – Lewis’ Former Partners — include: Amman Khan, Andrew Lorin, Caroline Polisi, Carolynn K. Beck, Christopher N. LaVigne, Conor McDonough, Craig Bolton, David L. Hecht, Doug Curran, Eric M. Creizman, James D. Bainbridge, John Mark Pierce, Jonathan Sorkowitz, Maxim Price, Melissa Madrigal, Mike Pomerantz and Patrick Bradford ***
Links to Legal Desire’s prior coverage of the Lewis -v- Pierce Bainbridge dispute, including a Forbes article which linked to Legal Desire.