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Morrison & Foerster’s New York office lost its second corporate partner in as many weeks as John Cleary departed Friday for a New Jersey firm. His departure followed by one week the exit of partner William “Billy” Stern, who left MoFo last week and was expected to start work today at Fish & Richardson’s New York office. The moves underscore the change under way at MoFo’s 122-lawyer New York office, which played a winning hand during the dot-com boom but is now reshuffling its emphasis during the bust. Cleary, who joined MoFo in 1998 and was made a partner in January 2001, said MoFo’s commitment to the technology sector in New York had waned since the downturn began. “The efforts appeared to be going toward practices that were more traditional,” Cleary said. Cleary starts work today in Newark at Sills Cummis Radin Tischman Epstein & Gross, where he said he will work with emerging growth and venture capital clients. “[Sills Cummis] is good at lining up venture investors with company founders and making it happen, and they get the work out of the new company,” Cleary said. Robert Townsend, head of MoFo’s business department, said the firm is trying to integrate the corporate lawyers from the 15-year-old New York office into the practices of other offices. And that has meant working for larger, sometimes international, clients, he said. “The history is that the group was very focused on the emerging market, but those clients have not fared well in the last couple of years,” Townsend said. Townsend said the firm’s efforts to put New York lawyers to work on deals from other offices — especially from Japan and other international offices — won’t come at the expense of technology companies. “We’re repositioning [the office], but we don’t want to reposition it in such a way that undermines our emerging technology practice,” Townsend said. “While it won’t be back to the size it was, it will be in some incarnation.” The firm’s most recent N.Y. corporate hire reflects the immediate emphasis on large, international clients, Townsend said. MoFo brought on board last month Michael Braun, a partner lured away from Bingham McCutchen. Born and raised in Japan, Braun promised an expertise with cross-border deals involving the Pacific Rim. “We have a strategic plan for the N.Y. office which also emphasized our strengths,” including new media and emerging market clients, Townsend said. “But we can’t sit around and wait. We have to be expanding the practice in other areas, too.”

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