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Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich lost three litigators, including former firm chairman Donald Rushing, to Morrison & Foerster’s San Diego office this week. Going with Rushing are litigation partners Mark Zebrowski and James Huston. MoFo “has a huge national and international footprint that allows people with national litigation practices like ours to go across practice group lines and get good support for our clients,” said Rushing, who started his career at Gray Cary in 1979. MoFo’s 50-lawyer San Diego office is one of its fastest growing, with a focus on corporate finance, technology licensing and patent prosecution. The move was brokered by recruiter Larry Watanabe of San Diego-based Watanabe Nason & Seltzer. But this week’s departures may have as much to do with Gray Cary’s prospects as they do with MoFo’s allure. Sandford “Sandy” Lechtick, president of legal search firm Esquire Inq., said the tech-focused business model that served Valley firms so well in the 1990s is clearly not as strong as it once was, leaving Gray Cary and others vulnerable to partner raids. “In the last couple of years, you’ve seen a number of laterals moving to � large national firms that have a lot of diversity, both in practice and geography,” Lechtick said. “Lawyers who are somewhat risk-averse are looking with a little bit more interest at well-managed profitable national firms that don’t have much debt.” Departures from Gray Cary this year include William Choe, who joined Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal’s corporate department in San Francisco and Troy Zander, who joined Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton’s San Diego office. Gray Cary shed roughly a dozen partners in 2003, which in part reflected the firm’s efforts to boost profits. In December, Gray Cary Chairman J. Terence O’Malley said the exodus helped fuel a bump in profits from $460,000 in 2002 to $615,000 in 2003. That still lags profits at many of the larger national firms, including MoFo, which logged profits per partner of $740,000 last year. But Rushing said it wasn’t all about money. “MoFo has a deep commitment to the profession and the community,” he said. “It was very attractive to us to continue to have this. It’s very compatible culturally.”

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