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The chief architect of Howrey Simon Arnold & White’s expansion in California is leaving the firm after being lured to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom for the chance to be a full-time litigator again. Thomas Nolan will join Skadden in Los Angeles Feb. 1 after nearly 12 years with Howrey. Nolan, the firm’s managing partner in California, helped engineer the firm’s expansion from 18 lawyers in one Los Angeles office in 1995 to its current roster of 150 lawyers in four California locations. Aside from L.A., the firm has offices in San Francisco, Menlo Park and Irvine. The move of one of Howrey’s highest-profile lawyers serves as a fresh reminder of how competitive national firms have become in their search for California talent. “They are more organized and more targeted in their approach,” said Louis Eatman, Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw’s managing partner in Los Angeles. “There’s a greater push for profitability, and the way you accomplish it is by attracting the best talent.” Howrey’s growth curve in California has helped the firm significantly beef up revenue from the region. Nolan said the firm is showing a 16 percent increase in California for 2003. The firm helped bump the numbers by attracting rainmakers from other firms. Among them was Henry Bunsow, who left Keker & Van Nest to open Howrey’s San Francisco office in October 2002. In 1996, Robert Taylor left what was then Pillsbury Madison & Sutro to open a Menlo Park satellite that now has 50 lawyers. Taylor said Nolan played an important role in his recruitment and the firm’s expansion. But, he added, Nolan has been passing along responsibilities to other partners. “It’s going to be challenging because Tom plays an enormous role in the firm,” Taylor said. “But he’s put in an enormous amount of effort into developing leadership.” For his part, Nolan said that while trying four cases in the past year, his administrative duties had become taxing. He crafted a four-person committee to share the West Coast burden for Washington, D.C.-based Howrey. He said he also decided it would help the transition if he got off the stage entirely. His exit arrived in the form of an opportunity at Skadden, he said. “I came to appreciate my true passion is to try cases, and I was seeking a way to step down from some of my management responsibilities at Howrey in order to concentrate on my trial practice,” Nolan said. Howrey issued a statement Tuesday that Nolan had resigned “for personal reasons and to pursue his long-term interests.” In the statement, Robert Ruyak, Howrey’s managing partner and chief executive officer, said Nolan relinquishing his title as managing partner of California will help the West Coast leadership make a smooth transition. “With his help, Howrey has built four strong offices in California, and last year our California revenues grew by 16 percent our best year ever,” Ruyak said in the statement. Four people will take over Nolan’s duties in California. Partner John Schuster, of the Los Angeles office, is the acting managing partner in California. The leadership team will also include partners Joanne Caruso and David Steuber of the Los Angeles office and Robert Gooding Jr. in the Irvine outpost.

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