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Continuing its expansion into California, Piper Rudnick has added a pair of high-profile partners to its nascent San Francisco office. Stephen Cowan, a longtime managing partner of O’Melveny & Myers’ San Francisco office, and Caryl Welborn, a former senior partner at Morrison & Foerster, started with Piper Rudnick on Monday. Both attorneys are joining the firm’s real estate practice, where much of Piper’s recent West Coast growth has been concentrated. In January, Piper Rudnick lured a team of five real estate partners from Pillsbury Winthrop’s Los Angeles office, including commercial lease maven Michael Meyer. Cowan said he was attracted to Piper’s vision and commitment to building a national real estate group, which currently counts more than 200 attorneys. “It enables me to deliver cost-efficient services to real estate clients throughout the country, with a depth of real estate and tax expertise that I would not have otherwise had,” said Cowan. Piper Rudnick, which counts more than 975 lawyers, is the product of a 1999 merger of Baltimore’s Piper Marbury and Chicago’s Rudnick & Wolfe. The firm grossed $455 million in 2002, with average profits per equity partner of $675,000. Piper planted its flag in San Francisco in December, when it acquired 32-attorney Steinhart & Falconer. Welborn joins Piper after an eight-year stint running her own practice. Cowan helped found O’Melveny’s San Francisco office and served as its managing partner for nearly a decade, until 2001. A Harvard Law School graduate, Cowan’s resume features various big-ticket real estate deals including the $1.2 billion sale of San Francisco’s Embarcadero Center. Joining Cowan in the move is O’Melveny senior associate Robert Wachter. The pair’s exit leaves O’Melveny’s San Francisco office without any lawyers dedicated to real estate and comes as the firm has de-emphasized its focus on traditional real estate. In 2002, the real estate practice was renamed the project development and finance group as part of a firmwide practice re-organization. Darin Snyder, managing partner of O’Melveny’s San Francisco office, said the firm has not moved away from real estate but refined its concentration on the practice. “The focus is on the highest end of the real estate practice, which tends to be in capital markets, private equity deals and project finance,” said Snyder. As to whether the San Francisco office has plans to replace the departed real estate attorneys, Snyder said that the firm’s “expansion plans are always dependent on finding the right people, not a function of particular practice areas.”

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