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Timeline: Rise and Fall of a California Dream Clifford Chance awoke Monday from its California dream. The firm, which stormed the West Coast two years ago with a mass raid on Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, has lost the core of its dwindling California practice in a much-anticipated defection to Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. Clifford announced Monday that it is closing its San Francisco and Los Angeles offices as eight of its 11 partners in these outposts jumped to Orrick. Former Brobeck Chairman Tower Snow Jr. is not among them. Orrick acquired the two partners in Clifford Chance’s L.A. office and six of the nine remaining partners in its S.F. office. The deal was finalized Friday afternoon, and the group started at Orrick Monday. The team joining Orrick includes Michael Torpey, who was co-head of Clifford Chance’s global securities litigation group, and James Burns Jr., managing partner of the firm’s West Coast practices. The S.F. group also includes fellow securities litigation partners Karen Johnson-McKewan, James Kramer, Robert Varian and L. Christopher Vejnoska. The two Los Angeles partners joining Orrick’s L.A. outpost are real estate attorney Jerry Walsh and securities litigator Daniel Tyukody Jr. Clifford Chance’s seven-lawyer Palo Alto office will remain open. The firm said it has not yet decided on what will happen with its San Diego office. Orrick Chairman Ralph Baxter Jr. said the deal has been in the works for the past couple of months. “They considered other options,” Baxter said. “Everyone who does securities litigation was interested in them. There was a mutual decision that we’re a great fit together.” Baxter said Orrick is deciding in the next couple of days how many associates and staff it will be taking from the two Clifford Chance offices. Baxter said the firm’s highest priority at the beginning of the year was to expand its litigation practice, particularly the securities litigation group, which had 31 lawyers nationwide prior to the Clifford Chance hires. Baxter began recruiting Torpey when he learned that the litigator, who had been a partner at Orrick before joining Brobeck, was considering leaving Clifford Chance. Orrick had individual discussions with the other Clifford Chance partners. Baxter said Snow was not one of them. For the past two months, the San Francisco legal community has been playing a guessing game about when and where Torpey might move his securities litigation group. The buzz escalated with the departure of four Clifford Chance partners last month. Securities litigation partners Dean Kristy, Kevin Muck and Susan Muck went to Fenwick & West, while antitrust partner Craig Waldman, who joined the firm’s San Francisco outpost from Clifford Chance’s New York office, went to Cooley Godward. Last week, a Clifford Chance spokesman said the firm had no plans to close any of its offices. But John Carroll, managing partner of Clifford Chance’s Americas region, said he began evaluating the “strategy and profitability” of the California offices in January. “We entered the California market to build a transactional practice and to build a litigation practice with that,” Carroll said. “We weren’t getting the traction to build a transactional practice.” “The folks in California had more of a regional focus,” he added. “Our world views were somewhat different.” Clifford Chance said the San Francisco and Los Angeles offices represented approximately 2 percent of the firm’s total global revenue. Burns said the securities litigation group decided to go to a firm that could provide a broader platform in California. “We were proud of the profitable practice we built at Clifford Chance,” Burns said. “But to go to the next level, we knew that we needed more.” Burns said Orrick offers a “strong corporate platform on the East Coast and West Coast, a strong litigation practice on both coasts, an international presence and a strong regulatory and white-collar practice.” Burns said he and his colleagues got calls from 10 to 15 firms who were interested in hiring the group, but they decided that Orrick was the best fit. London’s Clifford Chance opened in California in June 2002, hiring 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 not been able to recruit a single lateral. “The question or pursuit of great achievements by definition involves great risk,” Snow said in an interview Monday. “We had a grand strategic vision two years ago reflecting the globalization of the legal industry. It turned out the challenges couldn’t be overcome.” Snow said he continues to work full-time at Clifford Chance as a 100-unit partner, which is the top of the firm’s lock-step compensation system. Snow said he had not decided what he would do next, and that he would not consider his options until the associates and staff had found new jobs. “The law used to be, if not my highest priority, one of my highest priorities,” Snow said. “My highest priority today without a close second is my 5-year-old daughter.” The two other remaining partners in the San Francisco office — securities litigators Sara Brody and James Lico — have not yet announced where they will be going. Brody declined to comment, but sources close to her said she plans to go to Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe. Lico could not be reached for comment. Carroll said Clifford Chance intends to grow its Palo Alto office with a focus on intellectual property litigation. The office now has two partners, IP litigator Daniel Harris and securities litigator Joseph Ferraro. Carroll said the firm is in discussions with the five-lawyer San Diego office about its fate.

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