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The pace of departures is picking up as the May 1 merger of Washington-based Hogan & Hartson and London-based Lovells approaches. Tuesday’s announcement that Lovells will shutter its 17-lawyer Chicago office marked the latest in a series of announcements about lawyers leaving ahead of the launch of Hogan Lovells. To date, at least 102 lawyers, including 35 partners, have left or are leaving the two firms that are set to combine in the largest transatlantic merger since the January 2005 creation of DLA Piper. Conflicts have been the recurring reason cited by departing attorneys for signing on elsewhere. The Hogan side of the merger has been hardest hit, with 80 lawyers going or gone across a range of practice areas. Overall, 78 of the departures have occurred overseas. Only the Chicago closure would leave the combined firm with no lawyers in that city. The first major departure after the merger news came out in October 2009 occurred in January. Three intellectual property counsel and of counsel ditched Lovells’ New York office to open a Manhattan office for Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi. David Leichtman, Hillel Parness and Bryan Vogel, who all joined Robins Kaplan as partners, advise artists suing over misappropriation of their works. Conflicts were cited as the reason for the move. Departures sped up in March, with substantially larger groups opting out or being let go. On March 1, K&L Gates announced that it was acquiring Hogan’s 38-lawyer office in Warsaw, Poland. That office handled a wide range of corporate issues, from banking and finance, to mergers and acquisitions, to government contracts, to intellectual property. Lovells also has a Warsaw office with some 60 lawyers. At the time, J. Warren Gorrell Jr., Hogan’s chairman, said that Warsaw was a “good market” that the firm could well serve with the Lovells lawyers. On March 23, news broke that Hogan’s Berlin office was splitting in two, with 18 partners and 22 other lawyers breaking away to start their own firm, leaving behind 15 lawyers. The new firm, Raue, will officially launch on May 1 and will focus on corporate, employment, IP, litigation, real estate and regulatory issues. Again, the reason cited for the split was client conflicts. Notably, the defectors didn’t include Christoph Wagner, the telecom rainmaker tapped to head the Berlin office of Hogan Lovells. Lovells does not have its own Berlin office. The closing of Lovells’ Chicago office, which focuses primarily on reinsurance, constitutes the largest number of lawyers reported leaving from the Lovells side of the merger. It also means that Hogan Lovells will not have a presence in the Windy City because Hogan does not have a Chicago office. In a March 30 statement, Lovells Managing Partner David Harris said the office “has been affected by a number of significant conflict situations.” Chicago partner Gail Goering said the conflict situation is not expected to improve after the merger. She said conflicts can be especially damaging to reinsurance practices because there are only so many potential clients in the business of insuring insurers. “Strategically, the office was no longer a good fit for the firm. We decided that it made sense to shake hands and part ways as friends,” Goering said. In addition to merger-related losses of groups, four Hogan lawyers have left individually in recent months. In December, Paul Virtue, who had been an immigration partner in Washington, left for Baker & McKenzie, saying the merger wouldn’t necessarily benefit his practice. Also in December, William Kahn, who had been an associate in Hogan’s Washington office, moved to Seyfarth Shaw as a partner. Kahn, who focuses on mergers and acquisitions, said at the time that his move was “totally unrelated” to the merger and that he was seeking “more predictable” billing rates. In February, Peter Smith, who had been a partner in Hogan’s corporate practice in New York, opted to join Thompson Hine in Atlanta. Smith did not return a call for comment. And on March 26, Hogan partner Michael Wyatt signed on to join Foley Hoag in Washington. Wyatt, who specializes in private equity and Small Business Investment Company issues, said he moved not because of the merger but because he wanted to join Foley Hoag’s broader SBIC practice. Departures before a major merger are not unusual, of course. Hogan Lovells will have roughly 2,500 lawyers worldwide. Thomas Clay, a law firm consultant at Altman Weil, said, “There really haven’t been that many people leaving, given the size of the two firms.”

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