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Partners at Oakland-based Crosby, Heafey, Roach & May and Pittsburgh-based Reed Smith approved an agreement that will combine the two firms in 2003, Kurt Peterson, Crosby’s firmwide managing partner, announced to lawyers at the firm Wednesday. An official announcement will be made today, but a source confirmed that firm leaders have already told employees about the agreement. Partners at both firms were said to have overwhelmingly backed the agreement. Most of the partners at both firms — including 80 percent of Crosby’s equity partners — had to approve the deal for it to go through. Peterson and partners at Reed Smith did not return calls for official comment Wednesday afternoon. The union joins two firms that have tried to transcend their beginnings in their respective blue-collar cities. Reed Smith was founded in Pittsburgh 125 years ago and has swelled to 780 attorneys by aggressively acquiring smaller firms. Earlier this month, the firm tacked on 10 attorneys from the legal department of Pittsburgh mutual fund company Federated Investors to staff its investment and asset management practice group. In December 2000, it announced that it would acquire London boutique firm Warner Cranston. In addition to the acquisitions, Reed Smith has made other moves to position itself as a rising player. In 2000, the firm restructured its leadership and shortened its name from Reed Smith Shaw & McClay to boost marketing opportunities. When Crosby, Heafey’s 224 attorneys officially join the payroll in January, Reed Smith will have more than 1,000 attorneys, instantly making the firm among the largest in the country. Like Reed, Crosby has also sought to expand, but it’s struggled with the regional economic downturn. Crosby ramped up its corporate practice in recent years by gobbling boutique firms such as Oakland’s Bay Venture Counsel and Century City’s Sanders, Barnet, Goldman, Simons & Mosk. Like many Bay Area firms, Crosby, Heafey has shed employees and staff to weather the economic downturn. The firm fired 13 lawyers and 40 staff members in 2001. As profits dipped, the firm lost several partners to larger firms. Recently Crosby has made it known that it was interested in merging with an East Coast firm that was looking to expand west. Before the merger, Reed Smith had no West Coast offices. Now it will have strongholds in Oakland, San Francisco, Century City and Los Angeles in addition to smaller offices in Palo Alto and Westlake Village. Leaders from Reed Smith, including Chairman Gregory Jordan and Michael Pollack, the firm’s director of strategic planning, visited Crosby’s offices this week.

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