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PHILADELPHIA — Most people would be a tad apprehensive if their boss asked them to uproot their family and move 3,000 miles away from their personal and professional home of 23 years. But not Morgan, Lewis & Bockius partner Jami Wintz McKeon, who will be relocating this fall to San Francisco to help enhance the firm’s burgeoning California presence. Morgan, Lewis Chairman Francis Milone approached McKeon two months ago as she was heading out for lunch and asked her to consider moving West, where the firm now has 228 lawyers after the February 2003 acquisition of partners and associates from the now-defunct Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison. McKeon said she certainly had to discuss the matter with her husband and four children. But it took only a matter of days before McKeon agreed to Milone’s request, and her move will be consummated in September. Milone said he was looking for someone who could indoctrinate the San Francisco newcomers into the Morgan, Lewis culture, as well as take the lead in recruiting lateral hires. He said McKeon was a perfect fit being that she was one of the primary Morgan, Lewis lawyers who handled negotiations on a failed merger attempt with Brobeck in late 2002, only to return a few months later to conduct discussions with various partners at the California firm when it become obvious that it would dissolve. At that time, more than 150 Brobeck lawyers joined Morgan, Lewis. McKeon has continued to shuttle back and forth during that integration process and played a key role in the subsequent additions of lawyers from Pennie & Edmonds and Zevnik & Horton. “I was actually surprised when Fran first asked me to do this,” said McKeon during a phone interview from San Francisco. “But I knew right away that it was a good idea. Integration has gone really well [with the Brobeck people], but now it’s time to take California to the next level. And I think it will help to have someone who has been with the firm for a long time and understands what the firm culture is all about.” McKeon will not serve as an office managing partner, being that the firm feels it already has capable people serving in that capacity in each of its four California sites — San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles and Irvine. Instead, she will focus on expansion throughout California. With the recent addition of rainmaker David Sorin to the firm’s Princeton, N.J., office last month and strong venture capital practices in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., McKeon said Morgan, Lewis would like to capitalize on the established life sciences practice in California. She said the firm would also like to expand in areas such as intellectual property and labor and employment. McKeon said she has been impressed with the results of entry-level recruiting in Northern California. The firm was hoping to land 10 recent law graduates in San Francisco this fall but wound up with 15 — most of which are from elite law schools. “We had similar results in Los Angeles, but I think it’s more impressive in Northern California because we had an office in Los Angeles for a long time,” McKeon said. “We’re still trying to establish ourselves in Northern California. But I’m really surprised with how well we’ve been received in this market. Headhunters are keeping us really busy.” After graduating in 1981 from Villanova University School of Law, McKeon started her career as a litigation associate in Morgan, Lewis’ Philadelphia office. While her practice originally had a bankruptcy bent to it, McKeon gravitated toward commercial litigation, including class action cases, business disputes and fraud litigation in industries such as pharmaceutical, computer software and hardware, technology, manufacturing and health care industries. She said during the past five years, her practice has also grown a financial services component, and she is widely considered to be one of the top female commercial litigators in the region. For the past six years, McKeon has served as chairwoman of the roughly 85-attorney business and corporate litigation practice group, the largest group in the firm’s litigation department. She has also spent the past eight years as head of the litigation practice group in the Philadelphia office, a title she will obviously relinquish after the move. McKeon said her practice will not be affected much by the move, being that it is national in scope. “I don’t spend a lot of time litigating in Philadelphia anyway,” McKeon said. “Many of my clients were actually excited at the prospect of having someone they trust on the ground in San Francisco. The only issue I’ll have is that I’ve yet to take the California bar.” McKeon’s husband works in the health care industry, and she said he has been exceptionally understanding about the opportunity presented to his wife. With her oldest child already in college and another ready to enroll next month, her two younger children will make the move in time for the beginning of the school year. “My husband won’t have a problem finding work out there in his field,” McKeon said. “My family is supportive because they believe in what the firm is doing. So we’re just taking the summer to get everything organized. Right now the tough thing is finding a house, because everything is so expensive out here.” In addition to the move and new West Coast responsibilities, McKeon has been named firmwide communications partner, where she will concentrate on synergizing internal and external communications. Milone said he was planning to appoint McKeon to the position before asking her to move. “There are a lot of firms that have come here and failed,” McKeon said. “We want to make sure we do things right and get our message out in this market. So in a sense, while the two jobs are unrelated, there is a connection between the two, and it’s probably going to be helpful that I’m doing both.” Jeff Blumenthal is a reporter with The Legal Intelligencer , a Recorder affiliate based in Philadelphia.

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