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Piper Rudnick has moved into the San Francisco legal market by acquiring a 32-lawyer firm. Partners at 100-year-old Steinhart & Falconer voted in mid-December to accept a merger proposal. The firm will operate as Piper Rudnick. With 12 offices and 950 lawyers, the acquisition is the latest in a series for Piper Rudnick aimed at expanding its national reach. Piper was created by the 1999 merger of Baltimore’s Piper Marbury and Chicago-based Rudnick & Wolfe. In 2001, Piper was wooing what was then McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen. Merger talks fizzled, though, and McCutchen went on to merge with Boston’s Bingham Dana. Since then, Piper had put out feelers to acquire a group of lawyers from within an established local firm. Instead, the search turned up Steinhart. The firms had been in talks since October. Larry Watanabe, a law firm recruiter and consultant, says the deal gives Piper an instant presence in Northern California. Steinhart partners say the firm was still performing well financially. But, like other small local and regional players, it was feeling the squeeze from the gathering momentum of national firms, with their greater geographic reach and financial resources. “One of the considerations was balancing out this sort of sense of responsibility as a head of a 100-year-old firm,” says Steinhart partner Robb Scott, “and, on the other hand, making sure the opportunities are going to be there for the people who were coming up behind us.” Scott will serve as partner in charge of Piper’s San Francisco outpost. Steinhart lawyers will help Piper serve clients with local matters, a need that drove it into talks with McCutchen. The firm’s 19 partners focus on litigation, real estate, and media law. Clients include LucasFilm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the BP Arco Co., and the San Francisco Chronicle. Renee Deger is a senior writer at The Recorder, the American Lawyer Media daily newspaper in San Francisco, where this article first appeared.

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