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HOUSTON — Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison on Wednesday sued its former chairman, Tower Snow Jr., and the firm he joined in May 2002, Clifford Chance, alleging they contributed to collapse of Brobeck earlier this year. Brobeck and the other plaintiffs in the complaint filed in Alameda County Superior Court allege Snow, London-based Clifford Chance and 100 unnamed John Doe defendants contributed to the demise of the firm in January 2003. The plaintiffs allege causes of action against the defendants for breach of fiduciary duty, unfair competition, intentional interference with prospective business advantage and tortious interference with a contract. The plaintiffs — the firm, 11 retired partners, six staff members who lost jobs when the firm dissolved, and the Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison Claim Liquidation Trust — seek a minimum of $100 million in actual damages and unspecified punitive damages in the complaint, says Houston’s W. Mark Lanier, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. “We decided it was necessary to bring this case to find the truth behind why these people lost so much,” says Lanier, of the Lanier Law Firm. Snow was out of the office Wednesday and did not immediately return a telephone message. “We just can’t comment at this time because we haven’t had time to review the complaint,” said Tom Orewyler, a spokesman for Clifford Chance. As alleged by the plaintiffs in the complaint, Snow breached his fiduciary duties to the firm when he contacted management at Clifford Chance in early 2002 and proposed that he and dozens of lawyers from Brobeck open a San Francisco office for Clifford Chance. The plaintiffs also allege in the complaint that Snow and others provided confidential information to Clifford Chance during their negotiations, and that after Snow and other partners from Brobeck joined Clifford Chance in the summer of 2002, Clifford Chance began “publicly questioning Brobeck’s stability and predicting its demise.” In their complaint the plaintiffs also contend that efforts by Snow and Clifford Chance to recruit a large number of partners exposed Brobeck to a clause in its loan agreements that would put the firm into default if 15 percent of the partners left the firm. The plaintiffs allege in the complaint that Snow and Clifford Chance caused Brobeck to suffer significant economic damages including the loss of business, good will, value of trade secrets, proprietary and confidential information, investment in recruiting and ability to benefit from new clients. “As a result of these losses, the Brobeck firm has been forced to default on its obligations to numerous creditors and to terminate the employment of its employees,” the plaintiffs allege in their complaint in Faye E. Hanger v. Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells, LLP. Brobeck announced Jan. 30 it would dissolve, and it closed its doors in February. The plaintiffs also say in their complaint that the individual plaintiffs lost their jobs and retirement benefits. Brenda Sapino Jeffreys is a reporter for Texas Lawyer , a Recorder affiliate based in Houston.

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