Former White & Case counsel Raymond Sullivan Jr. has joined the Washington office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz as a partner. He previously headed White & Case’s global customs practice and now leads a similar group at his new firm. Sullivan says the recent restructuring at White & Case, as reported here by The American Lawyer, was not related to his decision to leave the firm. Instead, he says the move had to do with the gloomy financial times.
“The reason was really to move my practice, in these tougher economic times, to a firm that has a friendlier rate structure for my clients,” says Sullivan, explaining that the lower billing rates at Baker, Donelson will potentially translate into a broader client base. He says he represents a lot of automotive industry clients in connection with duty rate and other customs and border protection issues. Sullivan declined to name the specific companies, since he says many clients are still in the process of finalizing their moves with him to Baker, Donelson, where he started work Nov. 17.
Baker, Donelson is a bit of a departure from White & Case and also Willkie Farr & Gallagher, where Sullivan has also worked. Sullivan describes his former firms as “both kind of New York-centric firms that seemed to be trying to push the rate issue every year.” As a result, last year White & Case had profits per partner of $1.67 million, and Willkie Farr came in at $2.235 million. Baker, on the other hand, is based in Memphis, Tenn., and reported profits per partner of $425,000.
Sullivan says he was also attracted to Baker, Donelson’s efforts to expand its focus on international work. But as the economy continues to struggle, billing rates will no doubt continue to be a sore spot for many Big Law clients.