Silicon Valley Slammed as Climan & Co. Leave Cooley

When one Lawdragon 500 member leaves a firm, it’s news. Three? Grand slam Dewey LeBoeuf.

Strikeout: Cooley.

Rick Climan and his partners Keith Flaum and Eric Reifschneider have been the engine of Cooley Godward (other than big time litigator Steve Neal). They possess an enormous corporate practice that is respected beyond the Valley, advising clients like eBay and Gilead Sciences in billion-dollar deals. They have been pursued by the nation’s most elite firms for years, all of whom scratched their heads when the trio decided to stay loyal to the remarkably mid-market Cooley.

Well, something’s in the water at Dewey, lately, where the leadership team got the attention of the Cooley crown jewels. Dewey chairman Steven H. Davis expressed delight at the coup, saying “Rick and Keith are two of the premier M&A lawyers in the U.S. By joining forces with our existing renowned practice, they give the firm one of the strongest global M&A practices in the world.”

Climan has been tasked with leading the strategic expansion of the global M&A practice, which had particular appeal given the still-galvanizing but enormous potential of Dewey LeBoeuf. “A global footprint is critical to remaining competitive in the M&A marketplace. As U.S.-based companies continue to expand their businesses internationally, Dewey & LeBoeuf provides an exceptional global platform as well as broad multi-sector expertise on which to continue building our practice.”

Climan will join the executive committee at Dewey LeBoeuf. He may be the most respected corporate lawyer in Silicon Valley among national dealmakers, having eclipsed Larry Sonsini on that scene several years back. He joined Cooley in 1994. Flaum was his first hire, in 1995, with Reifschneider following in 1996. All three have remarkable deal dexterity and books of business. (And, in a sweet twist, Climan and Davis were in the same high school class, Stuyvesant High, ’70.)

As for Cooley, the three departing partners only have great things to say about the firm they never thought they’d leave. However, since 2007 when the well-respected Neal stepped down as chairman, legal observers have wondered about the future of Cooley. In particular, people questioned giving so much sway to the emerging companies contingent of the firm, led by Joe Conroy, who became the new CEO. According to several sources, this provoked dissension as the strategy of building a law firm around emerging companies is questionable – to say the very, very least.

So good luck, Cooley. You’ll always miss the ones that got away.

Nice work, again, Dewey. Very nice.

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