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Philadelphia’s Dechert is the latest out-of-towner to set up shop in San Francisco. The firm officially opened its local digs Thursday. The three-attorney office at One Maritime Plaza will focus on commercial real estate finance. Dechert is the fifth big Philadelphia firm to come to the Bay Area in the past five years. Cozen O’Connor; Duane Morris; Drinker Biddle & Reath; and Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis have all set up local practices, along with more than 50 other firms based outside the Bay Area. Dechert has offices in 14 cities, including a 2-year-old office in Newport Beach. The firm said it doesn’t plan to compete with local firms. “We’re using this office to basically fulfill the needs of clients in California and the Western region,” and we will do work for clients all over the United States, said Joseph Heil, who rejoined Dechert as a partner to lead the San Francisco office. “We’re not competing with local firms but with national firms with national practices.” Heil was with Dechert for 10 years before leaving in 1998 to become chief legal officer of Capital America/Nomura Asset Capital Corp. He subsequently co-founded Precept Corp., a commercial mortgage loan origination system connecting commercial real estate lenders, borrowers and mortgage brokers. In addition to Heil, the S.F. office includes counsel David Linder and associate Steven Rivers. Linders also is rejoining Linder after a four-year stint as a banker at Capital America. Rivers previously served as Precept’s general counsel. While Dechert plans to grow the office, Heil said it would initially be devoted solely to commercial real estate finance. “For now our specific plan in California is to grow this specific practice.” The 750-lawyer Dechert has 100 lawyers in its finance and real estate team. According to Recorder affiliate The American Lawyer magazine, in 2001 Dechert had gross revenue of $344 million and profits per partner of $765,000.

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