Harvey M. Lebowitz, the former U.S. bankruptcy judge who abruptly resigned from a major Baltimore law firm two weeks ago in a dispute over management policies, joined Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, another major local firm, yesterday.
"It is anticipated" that Mr. Lebowitz, a 61-year-old bankruptcy specialist, will become the head of Whiteford, Taylor's two-lawyer bankruptcy department, said managing partner Louis G. Close Jr.
Mr. Lebowitz had been head of the bankruptcy department of Frank, Bernstein, Conaway & Goldman, the city's third-largest law firm, since resigning as chief bankruptcy judge for the District of Maryland in 1982.
Recently, however, Frank, Bernstein combined lawyers from a number of departments into an interdisciplinary bankruptcy and loan-workout department.
The firm's management said the new department was designed to respond quickly to client needs as the recession deepened.
Mr. Lebowitz said he had a "philosophical problem" with the restructuring.
"To bring in a whole bunch of people who have a discrete knowledge of a little bit of this and that doesn't satisfy the needs of the client, I don't believe," Mr. Lebowitz said.
Wilbert H. Sirota, a member of Frank, Bernstein's management committee, said Mr. Lebowitz left when he disagreed with the restructuring.
"I wish him luck," Mr. Sirota said yesterday.
Mr. Lebowitz said he had received "very substantial" offers from a number of other firms, including offers to build bankruptcy departments from scratch.
He decided to join Whiteford, Taylor, however, because it already has "a known and respected bankruptcy department."
"That made my transition much easier," he said.
Kenneth Oestreicher, a former bankruptcy specialist with the U.S. Department of Justice, is also leaving Frank, Bernstein to accompany Mr. Lebowitz to Whiteford, Taylor, the seventh-largest firm in Baltimore, Mr. Close said.