After turning away many Big Law suitors, the partners at trial and litigation defense firm Brown Eassa & McLeod are joining Sedgwick.
The Oakland, Calif.-based civil defense firm’s eight partners will move into Sedgwick’s offices on March 1, bringing a practice that centers on complex mass tort and product liability cases with them. Sedgwick is still determining how many of Brown Eassa’s 11 associates will stay on board, a firm spokesman said. Brown Eassa will dissolve later this year.
Having practiced together for more than 20 years, the core partners at Brown Eassa felt that they could have survived on their own, but they were looking for the geographic reach of a larger firm, managing partner Eugene Brown Jr. said. Brown Eassa lawyers are heavily involved in toxic torts litigation in the Gulf Coast, he noted. And the firms’ shared roots in the San Francisco Bay Area and emphases on litigation also make for a good match, he added.
"We really liked the idea of having Sedgwick here in San Francisco," he said. "And having known many of their lawyers over time, it just seemed comfortable."
This is not the first time that Brown Eassa’s lawyers have jumped to Big Law. In 2011, 14 of the firm’s attorneys — including former name partner Gennaro "Gus" Filice III — joined King & Spalding, doubling the firm’s presence in San Francisco. King & Spalding offered to hire select partners, but Brown and fellow name partner Robert Eassa stayed put because the Am Law 100 player was not willing to take on all of Brown Eassa’s talent, Brown told The Recorder in 2011.
This time, more are welcome. Brown and Eassa will practice at Sedgwick’s San Francisco office with partners Bruce McLeod, Delia Isvoranu, Troy McMahan, Amee Mikacich and Susan Ogdie, along with a number of associates. Partner Philip Cosgrove and an associate will be based in Sedgwick’s Los Angeles office. Retired partner Raymond Bergez will continue to be involved in an informal capacity, Brown said.
Sedgwick first approached Brown Eassa three or four years ago, Brown said, but conversations between the two firms began in earnest about six months ago. In late 2012, Brown Eassa partners voted unanimously to join forces with the firm, Brown said. The associates have responded positively to the decision, he added.
"They’re sad to see us move but anxious to join the new firm," Brown said.
Lawyers from Brown Eassa will deepen Sedgwick’s work in products liability, class actions, mass torts, environmental law, commercial litigation and labor and employment, Sedgwick chairman Michael Tanenbaum said. The firm has absorbed small shops before, moving into Washington, D.C., in 2011 with 14 lawyers from local firm Wallace Partners and carving out a presence in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 2009 with lawyers from Gordon, Hargrove & James.
"The joinder of these lawyers is consistent with our strategic plan, which calls for the deepening of bench strength in our core areas," Tanenbaum said.
Tanenbaum said he expects the new partners to boost the firm’s bottom line. All of Brown Eassa’s clients — which include Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobile Corp., ConocoPhillips Co. and the University of California — will come to Sedgwick, Brown said.
Sedgwick’s gross revenue rose 3 percent to $212 million in 2012. The firm’s revenue per lawyer climbed 2 percent to $610,000, while profits per partner jumped 6 percent to $760,000. Some of Brown Eassa’s 20 to 30 staff members are figuring out their next moves. Several notified the firm that they did not want to move to Sedgwick, Brown said.
"We believe that most will be able to make the transition," Brown said.