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Reeling from defections from its San Francisco office, Clifford Chance appears to be throwing a rope to its California practice by voting a Silicon Valley partner into its firmwide Partnership Council. Daniel Harris, an intellectual property partner in the firm’s six-attorney Palo Alto office, was elected to Clifford Chance’s Partnership Council on Monday. The committee, which is composed of 11 partners, represents partners’ concerns to upper management. It is considered the most important firmwide committee after the management committee. “I don’t know what others are doing, but I’m clearly here long term,” Harris said. “I’m very optimistic about the firm.” Harris may end up being the sole Clifford Chance partner in the Bay Area. The legal community has been buzzing about the expected defection of the firm’s California securities litigation group — which is virtually the entire San Francisco office — to another firm. While the group has talked to several firms, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe appears to be the lead suitor. Former colleagues of the Clifford Chance group say they have heard that Orrick is negotiating to acquire the entire office — with the exception of partner Tower Snow Jr. — and that a deal is expected by the end of the month. Asked about this speculation, a Clifford Chance San Francisco partner said: “You’re broadly on the right track.” While the loss of the securities group would be a shuddering blow to Clifford Chance’s California operations, the firm is adamant that it intends to keep all of its offices open. “We don’t have any plans to close any offices,” said Clifford Chance spokesman Tom Orewyler. The San Francisco office has nine partners — all securities litigators — two counsel, one of whom is a corporate attorney, and 21 associates. The Palo Alto office has two partners, Harris and securities litigator Joseph Ferraro, and four associates. Clifford Chance’s San Diego and Los Angeles offices have two partners apiece. Harris, 38, joined Clifford Chance from the now-defunct Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, where he became a partner in 2002. His highest profile case involved Lindows.com, a software company being sued by Microsoft Corp. for trademark infringement. “It’s interesting that they would keep a young partner with not a lot of business,” said one consultant who described the Palo Alto office as a ghost town. Last year the firm lost the head of its U.S. IP group, Leora Ben-Ami, who defected with two other partners to New York’s Kaye Scholer. Two other IP partners also left to join the New York office of Washington, D.C.’s Hogan & Hartson. London’s Clifford Chance entered California with much fanfare in June 2002, hiring former Brobeck chairman Snow, who in turn brought along 16 Brobeck partners and 30 associates. At the time, Snow predicted Clifford Chance would have more than 100 lawyers in the state by the end of 2002. But the firm has been unable to recruit a single lateral partner, and last month partners began leaving. Antitrust partner Craig Waldman, who joined the San Francisco outpost from Clifford Chance’s New York office, went to Cooley Godward, while securities litigation partners Dean Kristy, Kevin Muck, Susan Muck and seven associates went to Fenwick & West. Michael Torpey, who co-chairs Clifford Chance’s securities group, did not return phone calls. But in April he acknowledged to The Recorder that the group wasn’t entirely happy at Clifford Chance. “We have some issues we’re talking to the firm about,” Torpey said at the time. “We hope to get them resolved and that everything works out.” A former Brobeck partner said Torpey has been shopping his group to every firm in the Bay Area interested in a securities practice, including Jones Day and Orrick. Several former Brobeck partners said they had heard the group had discussions with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Cooley Godward. Orrick’s longtime chairman, Ralph Baxter Jr., has been eager to expand the firm with the aim of becoming a top national and international player. Orrick has had merger discussions with several firms, including Cooley and Venture Law Group, which ended up joining Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe. As of last month, Orrick was negotiating with Washington, D.C.’s 177-lawyer Swidler Berlin Shereff & Friedman. Baxter was not available for comment Monday or Tuesday. “We’re not going to be able to comment on any rumors about any conversations,” said an Orrick spokeswoman. Orrick would provide the Clifford Chance group with a sorely needed corporate base. Senior partners at competing firms have said Clifford Chance’s failure to bring in laterals to build a corporate practice has been a big problem for its California operations. The Clifford Chance group would bolster Orrick’s litigation department. Orrick does not have a group devoted to securities litigation. About 15 of the 26 lawyers in its San Francisco litigation department deal with securities matters. “I think it has a lot of value,” said PR consultant Elizabeth Lampert. “It [would] give Orrick a nice balance on the East and West Coast with its securities litigation practice.” Law firm management consultant Peter Zeughauser said the Clifford Chance group might fit better with a firm that has built more of an M&A practice. But he said Baxter has built “a substantial New York practice, and I think that’s something they might be interested in, so I could see that working.” One consultant was skeptical about whether the Clifford Chance team will mesh with Orrick. “Orrick continues to look at candidates without paying attention to personalities,” the consultant said. “It could be detrimental to their growth strategy.” Consultants and a former Brobeck lawyer said Baxter might relish the chance to get the group given his long rivalry with Snow. The two started together as associates at Orrick and rose to become chairmen of two of the most prominent firms in the Bay Area. “Tower was always on top,” one consultant said. “Ralph would probably get great joy to break the camel’s back.”

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