Weil Gotshal Grabs Hutchins Team –

The big law firms continue to get bigger at each other’s expense. Just before the Labor Day break, New York-based Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP announced that it was opening a Boston private equity practice, populated by attorneys from Bay State firm Hutchins, Wheeler & Dittmar.

Leading the caravan is Jim Westra, who will manage the new Weil Gotshal office. He is joined by 17 attorneys, including partners Marilyn French, David Kreisler, James Messenger, Joseph Newberg, Steven Peck, Charles Robins and Andrew Troop (who is now of counsel with Weil Gotshal).

“This was a very amicable parting,” Westra said, although some of Hutchins’ venture lawyers stayed behind. “In talking with clients, we discovered that it made sense to move different practices in different directions.”

The emigrating lawyers bring with them clients such as Highland Capital Partners, North Atlantic Ventures, Summit Partners, Thomas H. Lee Partners and YankeeTek Ventures. The group also has done occasional work for Greylock and Matrix Partners, and it is working with four sizable funds in formation.

Westra explained that his group was attracted to Weil Gotshal by its other practice areas, such as strong intellectual property and capital markets practices. He added that Weil Gotshal’s international network appealed to his group, who were bumping into swelling transnational transaction business on the venture side.

Weil Gotshal has 100 lawyers in private equity practices in Dallas, Frankfurt, Houston, London, New York, Silicon Valley, Calif., Singapore and Washington. The firm has offices in five other cities, and the private equity practice’s next expansion will be in a European city, where talks are in their final stages.

The Boston office willfocus on private equity, venture capital and mergers and acquisitions work, but there are no plans to expand the office into other practice areas. It will have litigation, bankruptcy and reorganization capacities, and Westra points out the office will tap Weil Gotshal’s resources in other locations.

Barry Wolf, Weil Gotshal’s New York-based co-head of the private equity group and a member of the firm’s 13-member managing committee, says, “We view [Westra] as a future leader of the [worldwide] private equity practice, the corporate department and the law firm.”

Wolf compares the new Boston practice to the firm’s stand-alone Dallas private equity practice, which has been operating as such for 17 years. Back in Boston, Westra and company have taken over a floor in Hutchins Wheeler’s 101 Federal St. offices and separated themselves off from their former colleagues. The team is looking at new space in downtown Boston to occupy near the end of the year.