By Leigh Jones
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A four-attorney mergers and acquisitions group has left law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf for DLA Piper in New York.
The defections bring to at least 40 the number of partners known to have left 1,000-attorney Dewey since the beginning of the year.
John Altorelli will join DLA Piper as co-chairman of the firm's U.S. finance practice and a member of the executive committee. The other attorneys are former Dewey partner Alexander Fraser, and Gerald Francese and Patrick Costello.
The group, which will become part of DLA Piper's corporate and finance practice, handles mergers and acquisitions, private equity deals and other corporate transactions.
All four men joined 4,200-attorney DLA Piper as partners on Tuesday.
A spokesman for Dewey declined to comment.
Roger Meltzer, global chairman of DLA Piper's corporate and finance practice, said he had started talking to Altorelli about eight weeks ago.
"We made a combined pitch to each other," he said.
The departures are the latest setback for Dewey.
In 2011 the firm hired a quantity of high-profile attorneys. The latest exit represents a 13 percent decrease in the number of partners, which totaled 304 at the end of 2011, according to the National Law Journal.
Dewey is saddled with large debt, including about $125 million in bond debt a rare liability for law firms.
Last week, Dewey said it was reorganizing its management structure, creating a five-partner office of the chair that will include current chairman Steve Davis.
(Editing by Noeleen Walder and Prudence Crowther)