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More than 50 partners from Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison — many of whom have spent their careers at the firm — have accepted offers to join Philadelphia-based Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. Morgan, Lewis Chairman Francis Milone said, “Probably at least as many associates and maybe even more” would be extended offers in the coming days. The firm will also hire Brobeck staff members, though Milone did not know how many. The Brobeck partners will begin working under the Morgan, Lewis name Wednesday. While Morgan, Lewis hasn’t worked out a lease arrangement, Milone said he would like to retain the Brobeck space. The partners joining Morgan, Lewis include Brobeck Chairman Richard Odom; corporate attorney and former Chairman John Larson; litigator Franklin “Brock” Brockway Gowdy; real estate attorney Stephen Finn; labor and employment litigators Cecily Waterman and Brendan Dolan; litigator William Trautman; and corporate attorney Ronald Moskovitz. About 30 of the 50 partners joining Morgan, Lewis are from Brobeck’s S.F. office, another 10 or so are from the Los Angeles outpost and the remaining are based in Brobeck’s East Palo Alto, San Diego and Irvine offices. “We thought the combination of the 50-plus partners joining Morgan, Lewis would literally create the great American law firm, considering its strength on both coasts and overseas,” Gowdy said. Morgan, Lewis had been in merger discussions with Brobeck since October. When talks collapsed last week, Brobeck’s nine-member policy committee decided within a few hours to disband the firm. Odom announced the firm would be closing down in a series of videoconferences with partners, associates and staff Jan. 30. Since then, Brobeck competitors have been scrambling to hire the firm’s top talent. Morgan, Lewis also immediately moved to pick up partners from Brobeck’s San Francisco headquarters and Los Angeles office. Morgan, Lewis partners flew to San Francisco and held a meeting with Brobeck partners Monday. They subsequently made offers to all the partners in the San Francisco and Los Angeles offices and set a deadline of 5 p.m. Wednesday for partners to accept or decline the deal. For 1,100-lawyer Morgan, Lewis the new hires give the firm a long-sought presence in Northern California. Except for its Los Angeles office, the firm’s other eight domestic offices are on the East Coast. Brobeck’s L.A. lawyers will move into Morgan, Lewis’ current space, and Morgan, Lewis will be opening new offices in Palo Alto and Orange County. “This means we now have a practice capability in California that’s much deeper and broader to serve existing clients and new ones,” Milone said. Milone and Gowdy said the merger discussions allowed partners from Brobeck and Morgan, Lewis to get to know each other and helped cement the final deal. Other firms have also been in a frenzy trying to nab top Brobeck talent. Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker has apparently beat out several other firms in the bidding for the intellectual property group at Brobeck’s San Diego office. Greg Nitzkowski, firmwide managing partner of Paul, Hastings, said both the IP group and corporate group in San Diego would be elected to the partnership early next week. “We believe they will accept our offer,” Nitzkowski said. While unsure if the entire IP group is on board, he said he expects the leading partners to join Paul, Hastings. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Pillsbury Winthrop and New York’s Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft sent partners to San Diego to give presentations to the IP group this week. Among other moves Thursday, Brobeck IP litigator Gregory Lippetz joined Bingham McCutchen’s S.F. office. The scramble for the exits came as the firm learned that it would be forced to close Feb. 14, about two weeks ahead of its original schedule. John Pachtner, Brobeck’s director of communications, referred media calls to Peter Gilhuly, a partner at Latham & Watkins overseeing the firm’s disbanding. Gilhuly could not be reached for comment about the firm’s closing date. But a Brobeck partner confirmed that the date was set for Valentine’s Day and that some groups would leave as early as today. “The bank is in control,” he said. “About the only think it hasn’t done is put yellow stickers on the furniture” to signify ownership by the bank. Odom and Richard Parker, firmwide managing partner, sent a memo to associates and staff Tuesday advising them that they should expect their employment to end by Feb. 28, if not earlier. They said the bank was requiring the firm “to reduce operating expenses immediately.” The closing date is a bitter irony for Brobeck staffers. During the boom years of 1999 to 2001, Brobeck issued Valentine’s Day bonus checks to staff members. The first two years the checks were $1,000 each and in the final year the amount rose to $1,500 — costing Brobeck $2.8 million.

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