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While more Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison partners landed at new firms Wednesday, former staff members said they were preparing to sue the firm for refusing to pay unused vacation and other benefits. A Brobeck employee initiated the campaign in an e-mail message to staff and associates, asking them to respond if they were interested in joining the litigation. As of Wednesday, the staffer — who can be reached at [email protected] — said 100 people had signed on to the effort, almost half of them associates, from the firm’s offices in California, Colorado, Texas and New York. “Several strategies have been proposed, including a class action suit,” the staffer, who wished to remain anonymous, wrote in an e-mail message. “We now have some very important attorneys from both inside and outside of Brobeck offering advice.” Another employee said Brobeck management told staff on Jan. 30 — when it was announced that the firm was disbanding — that they would lose their unused vacation. While the firm extended health insurance for one month, the employee said coverage was not provided to those with pre-existing conditions. Remaining employees expect to get their final paycheck when Brobeck closes down operations Friday. The checks will be given directly to employees rather than via direct deposit, the staff member said, since direct deposits of two weeks ago did not immediately clear and “a lot of people had bounced checks.” Brobeck partner Stephen Snyder, who is heading up the liquidation committee, did not return calls seeking comment. Peter Gilhuly, a partner at Latham & Watkins who is representing the firm in its liquidation, could not be reached. A Brobeck partner said that as of last week Citibank had agreed to pay $800,000 in vacation benefits. “But the latest word is they are not going to do that,” he said. Labor and employment lawyers say Brobeck staff have a right to their vacation time. “They certainly have a claim,” said D. Ward Kallstrom, a partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal. But he added that Brobeck might not have assets to go after. Another issue, he said, is whether the firm has insurance for unpaid medical benefit claims incurred before the plan was terminated. Many firms the size of Brobeck are self-insured, he said, and are thus on the hook for those claims. “For a firm the size of Brobeck, that could be a significant amount of money,” Kallstrom said. It’s unclear whether Brobeck partners will be liable for damages that arise from suits by employees, as well as from potential claims by creditors. Most partners say they are just trying to move on. Craig Andrews, a member of the policy committee, and four other corporate partners from Brobeck’s San Diego office are joining Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe. The group includes firmwide Managing Partner and policy committee member Richard Parker, as well as Michael Kagnoff, Martin Nichols and Hayden Trubitt. Heller is also taking nine associates and several staff members from the San Diego office. Andrews said 46 firms expressed serious interest in the group, which narrowed the list to about five firms. With the addition of the Brobeck lawyers, Heller’s San Diego office will have 63 attorneys. “This group was one of the jewels at Brobeck,” Heller Chairman Barry Levin said. Adding their strong life science, technology and medical device work “will help us build our technology practice in San Diego and throughout the firm.” Meanwhile, Curtis Mo and Rod Howard, top corporate partners in Brobeck’s East Palo Alto office, are joining Weil, Gotshal & Manges. Weil, Gotshal has “a superior intellectual property practice and wants to build a top-notch corporate practice” in Silicon Valley, Mo said. The firm also has “no debt, a completely clean balance sheet and is more profitable than any other firm in California.” Richard Millard, head of the corporate group in Weil, Gotshal’s 52-attorney Redwood Shores office, said the firm has been interested in hiring Mo and Howard for quite a while. “We want to have a full-service corporate group,” he said. “We think this will be a great boost for it.” Baker & McKenzie also added three Brobeck corporate partners — Shane Byrne, Philip Bush and Jason Kuhns — plus four associates in its San Francisco office. Corporate partners in Brobeck’s Austin office also found new homes. Carmelo Gordian, Ronald Skloss and J. Matthew Lyons joined Houston-based Andrews & Kurth, along with six associates and of counsel.

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