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Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has poached a pair of partners from local Bay Area firms, bolstering its fledgling San Francisco outpost and underscoring the significance of out-of-town firms in the current lateral-partner recruiting season. Reginald Steer and Karen Kubin, longtime Bay Area litigators who practiced at Pillsbury Winthrop and Cooley Godward, respectively, announced Wednesday they were moving to Chicago-based Akin Gump. The moves give Akin Gump nine attorneys in its four-month-old San Francisco office, which is currently focused exclusively on litigation. “The firm made a decision to open a San Francisco office because of the expanding California litigation practice, and the amount of litigation work the firm has in Northern California,” said Stephen Mansfield, the partner in charge of the San Francisco office. Steer and Kubin, he said, are perfect fits for Akin Gump’s plan to recruit experienced trial lawyers to help service those clients. Akin Gump is one of a handful of out-of-town firms that has opened offices in San Francisco in the past year with plans to grow. Kirkland & Ellis quietly opened a San Francisco office in January 2003. Since then the office has roughly doubled in size, with 30 resident attorneys currently listed on its Web site. A spokesperson for Kirkland declined to comment on its partner recruiting efforts in San Francisco. Other San Francisco newcomers with growth ambitions include Jones Day and Winston & Strawn. Both have successfully bulked up in recent months by luring veteran partners from Bay Area firms. Out-of-town firms have stepped up their partner recruiting efforts in San Francisco, with the main office increasingly involved in the process, says legal recruiter Avis Caravello. “If you present the right candidates I have no problem getting the chair to fly out to meet with that person,” she says. “That really shows the level of interest, the aggressiveness, and also how important growing these Bay Area offices has become firmwide with many of these law firms.” Kubin joins Akin Gump after 27 years at Cooley Godward, where she served on the firm’s management committee and chaired the labor and employment practice. Steer’s move was somewhat surprising, given that he rejoined Pillsbury one year ago after Skjerven Morrill dissolved. But Steer, a commercial and antitrust litigator, said the move was not a reflection on Pillsbury. “If this opportunity had existed years ago, I would have taken it rather than going to Skjerven. And if it had existed at the time I came back to Pillsbury I very likely would have taken it rather than returning to Pillsbury.” The ability to build a litigation practice in San Francisco was one of Akin Gump’s key draws, said Steer. “It’s exciting to be one of the people in it at the start,” he said, “and to be able to contribute to growing it and shaping it in the way I’d like to see a litigation practice grow and operate.” For some San Francisco partners, however, the entrepreneurial opportunities of joining an out-of-town firm’s office are outweighed by misgivings about joining a satellite office. “With some partners there is a bit of apprehension,” says Julie Brush, the co-founder of legal recruiting firm Solutus Legal Search. “They are a little bit reluctant to be away from the power base; they don’t know politically what it will mean.”

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