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Fenwick & West has suffered another blow to its litigation team with the fourth departure by a high-level partner from the practice group in six months. Claude Stern, an intellectual property rainmaker known for his work on big-ticket cases for software companies, is set to start work today in the Silicon Valley office of Los Angeles-based litigation firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges. His exit follows defections by John Steele and Timothy Roake to competitors and the departure of Patricia Lucas, who was appointed to the Santa Clara County Superior Court bench. Though all four appear to have left for different reasons, the effect on the firm has been the same: Fenwick faces a thinning team of litigation partners at a time when litigators are being counted on to rake in revenue. Gordon Davidson, Fenwick’s chairman, said litigation comprised almost half of the firm’s gross of $142 million last year. While the firm and Stern say Fenwick’s litigation practice is doing just fine, it’s clear the firm is still looking to bolster its team. Davidson was quick to point out that the firm has managed to bag some key hires in recent years and still counts some heavy-hitters among its ranks of litigators. Like many firms battered by the decline in corporate work, Fenwick has pushed to hire more litigators in recent years. The group currently numbers 75 lawyers, including 23 partners. Much of the growth occurred under Lucas, who stepped down as head of the group in late 2001. Roake took her place until he quit in January to join the Palo Alto office of L.A. powerhouse Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. The other litigator to leave this year, Steele, joined San Francisco’s Rogers, Joseph, O’Donnell & Phillips in March. Stern, who joined Fenwick in 1994, estimated his book of business has ranged from $5 million to $7 million in revenue. He’s likely to see a jump in compensation at his new firm. Profits per partner at 192-lawyer Quinn Emanuel hit $1 million in 2002, according to a Recorder survey of law firm finances. Meanwhile, Fenwick has lost some buying power. The Mountain View-based firm logged $650,000 in profits per partner last year, a 16 percent drop from 2001. Stern declined to talk about his compensation. He said he was drawn to Quinn Emanuel for the opportunity to help lead the intellectual property group at a firm that specializes in litigation for companies of all sizes. “I just think they’re on the move, and they’re an exciting place,” Stern said. Another draw was a personality fit between himself and his new partners. However, he said he holds his former colleagues at Fenwick in high regard. “Fenwick is doing well,” Stern said. “I’m sure my departure will not be a material impact on the firm.” Lynn Pasahow, current head of Fenwick’s litigation group, said litigation is still a top recruiting priority, and money hasn’t been an issue in his efforts to attract new partners. “The average per-partner number doesn’t have a whole lot to do with what you’re going to pay any individual person for his or her practice,” Pasahow said. “We’re ready to pay what an individual’s practice is worth.” Litigators, especially intellectual property specialists, have become the new superstars in the wake of the economic downturn. And Quinn Emanuel is not alone among the firms beating the bushes in Silicon Valley for new hires. Quinn Emanuel has 10 lawyers in its Redwood Shores office and about 25 in San Francisco, according to Charles Verhoeven, the managing partner of the offices. “We always have our eyes open for people attracted to our business model, which is litigation only,” Verhoeven said. “They can come to our firm and be king, whereas in a full-service firm, the scenario is different.” Edward Reines, a partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges in Redwood Shores, said Stern’s hire was a shrewd move by Quinn but it didn’t necessarily spell doom for Fenwick. “Stern is a significant addition to Quinn and should help them increase their profile in IP matters in Northern California,” Reines said, adding, “Fenwick has a pretty deep bench of IP litigators, and so I don’t believe this is a fatal blow.”

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