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Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe announced Tuesday that it has landed three high-profile IP partners from Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker. John Benassi, Jessica Wolff and Kurt Kjelland join Heller’s San Diego office as shareholders. They were part of the group that joined Paul, Hastings following the collapse of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison. They were close to the group of 14 business attorneys who joined Heller’s San Diego office straight from Brobeck. They’re the second group of one-time Brobeck lawyers to leave Paul, Hastings this year. Last month, five former Brobeck IP associates led by Howard Wisnia left for Baker & McKenzie’s San Diego office. David Geerdes, managing shareholder of Heller’s San Diego office, said the additions were “a great opportunity” that would really strengthen Heller’s IP litigation capacity. “Paul, Hastings is a wonderful firm, and I made a lot of great friends there,” Benassi said. “They don’t have the high technology and the IP focus that Heller has.” He said few firms combined Heller’s strengths in patent litigation, patent prosecution, patent licensing, emerging companies and antitrust. Benassi said that he and the two other departing partners had been losing work to conflicts. “The overwhelmingly powerful labor group that is over at Paul, Hastings creates a lot of conflicts,” he said. “We couldn’t represent anybody adverse to the music and entertainment industry.” In addition, Benassi said Wolff faced conflicts at Paul, Hastings in relation to her representation of generic drug companies. Ironically, Benassi said conflicts were one reason he didn’t go to Heller with the larger group in the first place. But he said all those conflicts had now gone away. Tuesday’s moves come on the heels of Heller’s loss of nine partners from its merger with the Venture Law Group. Recruiter Larry Watanabe said the departures were not dissimilar. “You’ve got two firms [Brobeck and VLG] that flew really, really high in the tech-boom era that both came crashing down and fell into bigger firms,” said Watanabe. “Now, after two years, they have bolted off.” “I just think that when Brobeck blew up [people] only had a short amount of time to analyze what firms they wanted to go to,” said Jeffrey Guise, another ex-Brobeck lawyer who left Pillsbury Winthrop for Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. “Given a few years of thought, people have decided that opportunities are better elsewhere.” The recent moves in and out of Heller involved attorneys who had practiced together for a long time. Benassi, Wolff and Kjelland worked together at Lyon & Lyon before going on to Brobeck and then Paul, Hastings. Several of the departing Heller VLG lawyers were part of the original group that practiced with founding partner Craig Johnson at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

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