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Jones Day has added Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe ERISA specialist James Baker to its force of almost 40 litigators in San Francisco. Baker, who carved out a specialty defending employee benefit plan sponsors years ago, previously worked at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison. “Rod McLeod, my former Brobeck partner, sneakily asked me to have lunch with him over the summer,” said Baker. “He said [Jones Day] was wonderful, and it would become the dominant litigation law firm in Northern California.” The pitch worked, and Baker began working at Jones Day on Monday. He brings with him two associates and a paralegal. “James Baker is a nationally recognized litigator in this specialty and, combined with our ERISA counseling practice, Jim fills out that capability on the West Coast,” said Jones Day partner Robert Mittelstaedt. Baker gives Jones Day 36 litigators in San Francisco, as well as three attorneys who work on health care transactions and financing. The firm’s 24 attorneys in Menlo Park mainly work on corporate matters. Mittelstaedt, who helped start the firm’s San Francisco office in May 2003 after leaving Pillsbury Winthrop, credits the firm’s success to its crop of lateral and legacy partners. The new outpost includes Paul Crist, a partner from Jones Day’s Cleveland office, and Elwood Lui, a former justice of the Second District Court of Appeal. “Today, a third are from my own firm, a third from other Jones Day offices, and the remainder are from Morgan, Lewis, Orrick [and other firms],” said Mittelstaedt. Jones Day’s recent lateral recruits in the Bay Area include James Peterson, an IP litigator from Burns, Doane, Swecker & Mathis; Martha Boersch, former chief of the Organized Crime Strike Force in the San Francisco U.S. attorney’s office; and John Cline, a white-collar crime specialist who once defended Oliver North. Cline was previously a partner at Freedman Boyd Daniels Hollander Goldberg & Cline P.A. “We plan on continuing to find top-quality lawyers at other firms in practice areas that complement [Jones Day's] strengths in other parts of the country,” said Mittelstaedt. Baker said it was a Littler Mendelson partner who put him on the ERISA track years ago. “He discovered I had a master’s in tax,” said Baker. “He knew I was a masochist. He approached me to help with one of his cases and, unfortunately, we won.” Orrick spokeswoman Ashley Kanigher said, “We wish Jim well. The firm’s compensation and benefits group has gotten off to a great start this year, and we expect it to keep up.” She added that the group, which has about a dozen lawyers headed up by Jonathan Ocker, handles compensation and benefits matters for a wide range of companies nationwide.

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