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Case by Coudert Retirees against Major Law Firms Dismissed
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On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon dismissed a lawsuit filed in Manhattan in 2007 by 24 retired Coudert partners. The retired partners of the now defunct Coudert law firm sued together as Retired Partners of Coudert Brothers Trust. The Coudert retirees alleged Baker & McKenzie, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe and Dechert of having orchestrated the demise of Coudert. They also alleged that each of the law firms owed them about $48 million in retirement benefits.

The plaintiffs alleged that the big law firms had unlawfully lured away lawyers from an ailing Coudert and devised a plan so that no assets remained to pay the retirees. The retirees also alleged that the law firms interfered with the Coudert partnership agreement by enticing and hiring active lawyers while the firm was failing financially.

Coudert was an international law firm founded in 1853 and was based in New York. At one time, Coudert had close to 650 attorneys. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after voting to dissolve in 2005. The real trustee (not the retirees) for Coudert in the Chapter 11 case is known to have filed actions against several law firms that took away Coudert partners when the firm was failing.

  
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The trustee claimed that the estate of Coudert is entitled to millions because the leaving partners took away Coudert business with them to their new firms. In 2010, Baker & McKenzie settled the claims of the trustee with an agreement to pay $6.7 million to the estate.

In the instant action filed separately by the retirees, the court held that “Any accrued payments left unpaid were properly the subject of a claim against the Coudert estate in bankruptcy.” The judge held that the Retired Partners of Coudert Brothers Trust lacked locus standi to sue the three firms.

The attorney of the plaintiffs, Thomas Decea, said that he planned to appeal and did not agree with the decision.

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