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Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly is pulling the plug on its Silicon Valley and Orange County offices, marking the end of its presence in California and leaving the firm with a single significant U.S. office in Minneapolis. The firm announced the closures of the two California offices Friday. The move comes a week after reports that a number of the Silicon Valley office’s top rainmakers were jumping ship to Philadelphia-based Dechert. Barton Winokur, chairman and chief executive officer of Dechert, confirmed that 28 Oppenheimer attorneys were joining the firm to launch a new Silicon Valley office, opening today. Among the partners moving to Dechert are Chris Graham and Michael Kalkstein, both of whom sat on Oppenheimer’s seven-member executive policy-making committee. Oppenheimer confirmed the end of its Silicon Valley office in a statement released Friday. “Those employees whohave not resigned to goto Dechert or another firmhave been terminated and told that Oppenheimer’s office will close effective May 30. The parties are still negotiating a possible agreement regarding the Palo Alto office space lease, its furniture and equipment,” the statement said. “Oppenheimer also confirmed that it has decided to close its office in Orange County, effective mid-July. A few lawyers will remain in California in Santa Monica,” the statement concluded. According to one attorney at Oppenheimer, the firm broke the news to the Silicon Valley lawyers and staff in an e-mail Thursday. “Everybody had seen this coming,” said the lawyer, who wished to remain anonymous. “We all knew it was going to be quick and dirty.” The lawyer said that about nine people, primarily transactional attorneys, were not joining Dechert, and that none of those people being laid off were receiving severance pay. Michael Bosworth, one of those not joining Dechert, would not comment other than to say that he was joining Burns, Doane, Swecker & Mathis and that he was very busy doing client transfer letters before the end of the day Friday. The closures represent a radical turn of events from just four years ago, when Oppenheimer was aggressively expanding across the United States. In 1999, the firm boasted eight U.S. offices, with three in California. In February, the firm announced it was shuttering its Los Angeles office. And the New York office, which had shrunk to just three lawyers, was no longer listed on Oppenheimer’s Web site Friday. The Silicon Valley office closure comes after unsuccessful attempts to sell the office, complete with lawyers, lease and accounts receivables, to another firm. While such an arrangement is virtually unheard of in the legal industry, Kalkstein said in February that Oppenheimer was in discussions with a number of national firms about such a transaction. The idea behind the sale, Kalkstein said at the time, was to allow the Silicon Valley attorneys to exit Oppenheimer, without saddling Oppenheimer with the costly Palo Alto office lease. According to former Oppenheimer partners, the Palo Alto lease on about 55,000 square feet of space in two separate buildings has 10 years left on it. Kalkstein, whose Oppenheimer voice mail greeting stated that he was joining Dechert at the end of May and provided his new contact information, did not return a call for comment Friday. Kalkstein, Graham and a number of other intellectual property litigators joined Oppenheimer in 1999 from the now-defunct firm of Graham & James. Their departures prompted Graham & James to sue Oppenheimer for misappropriation of trade secrets and contract interference. Dechert’s Winokur said the firm decided to set up shop in Silicon Valley specifically because of Kalkstein and Graham and their IP litigation practice. “If these two guys had been someplace else, we would have been in that city,” said Winokur. “We are focused on a number of practice groups where we either are, or are working towards, becoming national players. One of those areas is IP litigation,” Winokur said. According to Winokur, 700-laywer Dechert never considered buying Oppenheimer’s Palo Alto office. “We made it clear from day one that we were not interested in that,” he said. Dechert, which opened a three-attorney San Francisco outpost in January, is especially known for its mass tort and product liability work, representing clients including Philip Morris and drug maker GlaxoSmithKline Plc. The new Dechert office will consist of eight partners, two counsel and 20 associates, in addition to some two-dozen staff members. In addition, Frederick Herold, a former Dechert hiring partner, will move to Silicon Valley from Philadelphia. The group is sub-leasing space from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati on Page Mill Road for a year and a half.

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