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After doubling the size of the firm between 1998 and 2001 by establishing beachheads in cities like Miami, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, London and San Francisco, Duane Morris took some time off to digest and grow its new offices organically. But firm chairman Sheldon Bonovitz appears ready to get back in the acquisition business, as Duane Morris is expected to announce soon the addition of 16 lawyers from San Diego-based Luce Forward Hamilton & Scripps. Luce Forward New York partner Kimball Ann Lane confirmed that she will be joining Duane Morris with counsel Thomas Newman and four associates. There will also be three partners – including Mitchell Lathrop – and seven associates from Luce Forward’s main office in San Diego joining Duane Morris. Lane is the only partner in Luce Forward’s New York office. She is a litigator with a practice bent toward insurance and reinsurance issues. She said the rest of the group joining Duane Morris had similar practice focuses. “I guess we were just looking for a larger platform and that’s what Duane Morris provides,” Lane said. Bonovitz declined to comment, saying it was against firm policy to discuss lawyers who were not yet Duane Morris employees. But earlier last week, firm officials did say they expected to make an announcement about an acquisition today. With the additions in New York, Duane Morris now has 70 lawyers in Manhattan – 34 of whom are partners. San Diego will be Duane Morris’s 20th office and its second in California. There is no word about what real estate the firm has chosen in San Diego but – unlike Lane – the three partners in question had already been removed from the Luce Forward firm Web site on Friday afternoon, so it appears they are already geared up for new digs. San Francisco was the first major city that Bonovitz targeted for expansion in fall 1998. The firm now has 17 lawyers in its San Francisco office, including 11 partners. The latest acquisition fits with the pattern that Bonovitz has set up in other cities. Duane Morris used money earned from contingency fee cases – specifically, $25 million garnered in representing the state of Pennsylvania in tobacco litigation – to fund its expansion efforts. Bonovitz has focused on acquiring smaller groups from indigenous firms in large cities, something that is more expensive than entering in a merger because of the costs of finding suitable real estate and headhunter fees. Bonovitz estimated that the firm spent $2 million last year alone on headhunter fees. Duane Morris now has offices in Philadelphia, Allentown and Harrisburg; Cherry Hill, Newark and Princeton, N.J.; New York City and West Chester County, N.Y.; Wilmington, Del.; Washington, D.C.; Bangor, Maine; Boston; Atlanta; Chicago; Miami and Palm Beach, Fla.; Houston, Texas; San Francisco and San Diego, Calif.; and London. As for Luce Forward, the firm has 201 lawyers listed on its Web site, 137 of them based in its San Diego office. The firm also has 22 lawyers in Los Angeles, 20 in Carmel Valley (northern San Diego), 16 in San Francisco and the six in New York. According to information reported in the Jan. 31 edition of The Recorder, American Lawyer Media’s daily San Francisco-based newspaper, the firm was in merger talks at that time with Seattle’s Preston Gates & Eillis. (American Lawyer Media also publishes The Legal Intelligencer.) Nothing has been consummated to date, though. California-based legal headhunters say the firm is best-known for its litigation practice, as well as financial services and real estate.

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