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It’s been two years since Cleveland’s Squire, Sanders & Dempsey acquired five offices of San Francisco’s struggling Graham & James. For the two Bay Area offices now practicing under the Squire, Sanders flag, the combination appears to have provided a stabilizing and beneficial influence. And while Squire, Sanders’ 550 attorneys far outnumbered the 126 Graham & James lawyers at the time of the merger, the old Graham & James offices have not been refashioned according to a Cleveland template. In fact, say veterans of Graham & James, things in San Francisco are very familiar. At a time when law firms are increasingly pairing up in mergers, the fate of Graham & James offers an interesting look at how the smaller side of an acquisition fares after the combination. “We joined a firm that works really well for us,” says San Francisco Managing Partner Thomas Woofter, who had been with Graham & James for 18 years. “The combination has been quite good.” The years leading up to the merger were marked by turmoil within Graham & James. But Woofter points to the stability of the partner ranks that made the move to Squire, Sanders. According to Woofter, 12 of the 13 San Francisco-based partners who joined Squire, Sanders in 2000 are all still there today (longtime Graham & James partner J. Sorton Jones died in February). In Palo Alto, all nine former Graham & James partners are still on board. In addition to housing the same partners, the Bay Area offices have retained the same core practice areas that distinguished Graham & James. Squire, Sanders has dispatched a handful of attorneys to San Francisco to beef up the office’s environmental and employment practices. And in May, Robert Olson, a Squire, Sanders partner in Phoenix, moved to San Francisco to launch a public finance practice in the region — a natural step considering that Squire, Sanders is ranked among the nation’s top bond counsel. But the core practices in San Francisco are still intellectual property and international business, particularly the Japan/Pacific Rim practice, which was the hallmark of Graham & James. “We were allowed to retain the core identities that we had at Graham & James and work with the same people here, but also to expand beyond,” says Maureen Bennett, a partner in the San Francisco office. According to Mary Ann Jorgenson, a Cleveland-based partner on the Squire, Sanders management committee, the firm has made a conscious effort to keep the Graham & James legacy alive. “For historical relationship reasons it was important for us to maintain the memory of Graham & James,” she says. “There is real value to the Graham & James history and name.” Founded in 1934, Graham & James began as a San Francisco firm with a strong maritime practice representing Japanese shipping companies. Over the years, the firm turned this into an international business practice with several U.S. and overseas offices. “The whole thing was very Asian driven,” says one Bay Area partner who left Graham & James before the merger. “Many people were multilingual; most of the deals I worked on had some international aspect to them.” This worldly flavor extended into the firm’s offices, which featured impressive collections of oriental rugs and ceramics as well as exotic artifacts such as the doll-like human effigy, or Rambaramb, on display in the lobby of the Los Angeles office. The effigy is one of several artifacts in the L.A. office that is on loan from the Pacific Asian Museum. “The offices had really nice art collections,” says David Moyer, an associate who left Graham & James in 1999. “That sort of symbolized the fact that it was a fairly refined practice.” But the late 1990s proved a challenging time for Graham & James. The firm’s geographic profit center system, abandoned a couple of years before the merger with Squire, Sanders, didn’t encourage different offices to share work and sometimes resulted in inter-office recriminations. When the dot-com bubble began to inflate, many partners jumped ship to tech-oriented rivals with rapidly rising profits. The firm lost its Seattle office in 1999 and shuttered Sacramento a year later. By 2000, California-based Graham & James attorneys, who had numbered 200 three years earlier, had been cut in half. “From an associate’s perspective, it went from being this really attractive place to work to a place where there were just continual departures,” says Moyer. In July 2000, after nearly a year of discussions, Squire, Sanders acquired Graham & James’ San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Beijing offices. The New York office opted out of the deal, linking up with Miami-based Greenberg Traurig instead. The combination with Squire, Sanders might have been exactly what Graham & James needed. “The people that were in charge were suddenly all new people,” says Ralph Pais, a former managing partner of Graham & James’s Palo Alto office who moved to Fenwick & West about two years before the merger. “I think they were ready for that.” Indeed, there are signs that the former Graham & James offices have gotten a boost from the acquisition. The attorney ranks in the two Bay Area offices have increased by nearly 60 percent, from 42 to 67 attorneys, since the merger. And the combination has brought the West Coast offices some top-shelf work, such as representing Firestone tires parent Bridgestone. A year ago, Palo Alto partner Nicholas Unkovic, a Graham & James veteran, was elected to Squire, Sanders’ five-member management committee. “We have certainty and we have a direction. I think that would be very noticed by someone who left during the uncertain times,” says Bennett. According to Mark Dosker, a litigator in the San Francisco office who started as a Graham & James summer associate more than 20 years ago, the combination has given attorneys deeper resources and a broader range of specialties to call on. And it has accelerated the focus on inter-office collaboration and cross-selling that Graham & James started when it abandoned its old profit center system. “You might have a team on a given case that comes from five, six or seven offices,” says Dosker. But like other Graham & James veterans at Squire, Sanders, Dosker says the old firm is more than just a memory. “The personality and the culture of the place has not changed,” says Dosker. “The name is different on the door.”

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