By Casey Sullivan
(Reuters) - In the latest defections to hit Washington, D.C., law and lobbying firm Patton Boggs, nine partners are leaving the firm, according to several sources with direct knowledge of the moves.
The departures come as the 350-lawyer Patton Boggs is in merger talks with the larger Squire Sanders and it deals with ongoing financial woes.
Two of the partners are among the top dozen performing lawyers at the firm, according to one of the sources, who is familiar with Patton Boggs but did not want to be named. One of the parting lawyers, Benjamin Chew, led the commercial litigation and antitrust group, while Kevin Boardman had been on the firm's strategic planning committee.
According to the sources, Boardman and five other partners are moving to McGuireWoods to open a Dallas office for the Virginia firm, while Chew and another partner have accepted offers at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.
The departing partners either declined comment or did not respond to requests for comment.
Patton Boggs managing partner Edward Newberry did not respond to several requests for comment. He told the National Law Journal earlier this month that he expected between 15 and 20 partners to leave as the result of a forced reduction of lawyers at the firm.
"There are people we've asked to leave who have not left yet," he said in a March 8 email to Reuters, referring to a number of layoffs and dismissals that the firm conducted in 2013.
Last summer, shortly after Patton Boggs announced there would be firm-wide layoffs, 17 partners simultaneously announced their exit.
After the latest moves, Patton Boggs has 166 partners left, according to the firm's website. The firm staffed as many as 600 lawyers and consultants in 2011, but the figure has fallen to about 350, according to law firm tracking company Leopard Solutions.
Revenue at Patton Boggs dropped by 12 percent from 2012 to 2013, to $278 million, according to figures in an internal memo obtained by Reuters in January, and the firm recently hired restructuring advisers.
On February 26 the firm announced it was in merger talks - for at least the third time with another law firm in the last six months - with the larger firm Squire Sanders.
The merger talks are considered by former Patton Boggs lawyers and legal experts as a "make-or-break" deal for the firm because of its growing financial strain.
The nine exiting partners come from various Patton Boggs practice areas, including private equity, intellectual property, litigation and antitrust, according to sources close to Patton Boggs who did not want to be named.
(Reporting By Casey Sullivan; Editing by Ted Botha and Tom Brown)