The upcoming closure of top bankruptcy litigation boutique Stutman Treister & Glatt has led to a flurry of lateral moves as the firm’s talent searches out landing spots.

The roughly 25-attorney firm, for decades considered one of the region’s premier bankruptcy firms, announced it will be closing its doors on May 1. Attorneys attribute the closure in part to the slow bankruptcy market.

Many of the attorneys have already found new homes. Jeff Davidson, Gabriel Glazer and Isaac Pachulski are joining the latter’s brother at Century City boutique Pachulski Stang Ziehl & Jones; Gary E. Klausner is joining Century City’s Levene Neale Bender Yoo & Brill; and Eric Goldberg and Eve Karasik are opening a Los Angeles office for Las Vegas firm Gordon Silver.

Davidson, 62, said his soon-to-be new firm’s more extensive litigation capabilities were appealing.

“They’re a diversified firm with a very strong litigation practice and a private equity practice,” he said. “A number of the Chapter 11 cases have grown more contentious over the years, so it’s important to have that litigation capability in order to be able to utilize it when necessary.”

Klausner cited Levene Neale’s similarities to Stutman as a reason for his move there. The firm is similarly sized at 23 attorneys, restricts itself to bankruptcy-related work and focuses on middle-market debtor work. He said his annual book of business ranged between $2.5 million and $3 million during the last several years.

“Having worked at Stutman, which was known for having a stellar roster of attorneys, I wasn’t about to go somewhere a step down,” he said.

Attorneys at Pachulski Stang and Levene Neale, which are also both Century City bankruptcy boutiques like Stutman, said they too were seeing a slowdown in bankruptcy filings.

But Pachulski co-founder James Stang said that his firm’s geographic diversity – it has four offices nationally – helps because bankruptcy work has been especially slow in the region.

“As good as Stutman was, and they were about as good as you could get in their prime, we decided we wanted a national platform,” he said. “I’m not seeing a lot of Southern California filings.”

He added that another differentiating factor was his firm’s compensation model. Stutman reportedly paid most of its attorneys equally, leading higher performers to leave to seek more money.

“I think we’ve shown more flexibility about how to compensate folks and keep them motivated to get work,” he said.

David Neale, co-managing partner at Levene Neal, said his firm has managed to keep busy with regional work.

“We’re definitely seeing a decline in the number of bankruptcy filings,” he acknowledged. “But (the work) here in the Central to Southern California marketplace is enough to keep our firm busy.”

Stutman shareholder Robert Greenfield declined to comment on the reasons for its impending closure, referring only to a statement by the firm that was published in the Daily Journal saying Stutman “has determined that it is in the best interest of our clients, creditors, shareholders and employees that we cease the practice of law.”

Health Care Expansion

Beverly Hills boutique Raines Feldman has added a group of health care litigators led by Richie Decker, significantly boosting its litigation practice and expanding the firm’s geographic reach to Orange County.

In addition to Decker, the group includes David Mead, Zachary Mayer and Marc Berkemeier, all from Theodora Oringher. A fifth attorney, business litigator Brandon Mead, has joined from William Morris Endeavor Entertainment.

Miles Feldman, name partner and litigation department co-chairman, said that the hires further add to the firm’s litigation capabilities, a point of focus since its relaunch in 2010. That was when Feldman joined Raines Law Group, which at the time specialized in transactional work in real estate and private equity, to form Raines Feldman. The firm now has about 25 attorneys, compared with 10 at the start of 2010.

“We have really built out a powerhouse litigation group,” Feldman said. “We expanded the scope of the firm’s practice.”

Decker, 54, said that he joined Raines Feldman partly because it was accommodating during its recruitment.

“I was looking to move for a while and I didn’t really want to leave anything on the table,” he said. “I had an idea of what I wanted and saw some other firms and they said no to some things. Finally Raines Feldman was very eager to have me and all my guys over and really accommodated me in every way.”

That included opening an Orange County office for Mayer, which also happened to fit into the firm’s expansion plans. Feldman also said that the firm is looking to expand into the Bay Area and New York City, and wants to add general litigation, patent litigation, corporate and real estate attorneys.

Staff reporter Alfred Lee can be reached at alee@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 221.

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