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by Vault Law Editors | September 29, 2009

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Are we seeing a backlash against perennial alpha-firm Wachtell ?  The Lawyer says maybe, and thinks the firm’s legendary “aggressiveness” has recently begun to backfire.  The evidence:

   Wachtell was benchslapped by a Delaware judge over advice it gave in relation to an aborted merger between ­chemicals companies Hexion and Huntsman.

   Indian software company Satyam Computer Services dropped Wachtell (in favor of Jones Day) as counsel on an investor lawsuit. 

   The SEC had accused Bank of America of lying to its shareholders about billions in bonuses paid out to Merrill execs.  BoA’s defense?  They were simply acting on Wachtell’s advice.

Moreover, as firm chairman Marty Lipton approaches retirement, the firm’s aggressive ethos might possibly be an issue in the looming issue of succession.  Ed Herlihy and Dan Neff are the usual suspects as Lipton’s probable heirs.     Asks The Lawyer, “[I]n these tough economic times should the firm be looking to soften its stance, particularly ifitisbeingreplacedon ­mandates?”  Whether or not it “should,” it’s unlikely the firm will. An anonymous partner at a "rival firm" observes: “These are the guys [Herlihy and Neff] that are well known for being hard lawyers. It’s not surprising that they’ve been thrown off some deals and I think this could be the start of some difficult times for the firm and whoever the future ­leaders turn out to be.”

                                                    -posted by brian

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