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Andrea Wirum, a longtime partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and member of its board of directors, is leaving the firm after 25 years — but not to join a competitor. Wirum, who twice has been the managing partner of the San Francisco office, plans to start her own mediation practice and take assignments working as a bankruptcy trustee, receiver or a court-appointed or private examiner. “I am really going off to not practice law,” she said. “I don’t really feel that I am going across the street or saying goodbye.” Wirum, 49, said she had long wanted to do this type of work. She said needed to make the switch now if she planned on working until age 65. A partner who managed complex financial and corporate restructurings, she is also a certified public accountant. Wirum said she won’t be taking any clients with her. “They are clients of the firm,” she said, though she added that some of them may have need for a mediator some day. Pillsbury chairwoman Mary Cranston said she would be sorry to see Wirum go. “While I will miss her as a partner, she will be an important person to our firm and our marketplace,” Cranston said. “This is a particularly good time [for Wirum to start her new practice]. There is a lot of demand in the market for this particular skill set. Companies are going through restructurings of various kinds.” Although Wirum did some mediation at Pillsbury, she found she had to turn away work because of conflicts. It’s a difficulty other mediators talk about. “In some respects, the work isn’t compatible with the traditional law firm model because there is no leverage,” said Randall Wulff, who left his longtime home at Farella Braun & Martell to start his own dispute-resolution shop. “On the other hand, the margin is respectable and the work provides excellent exposure for the law firm. When I am mediating, I might interact with a thousand lawyers a year.” Wulff said Farella’s partnership allowed him to run his mediation practice full time and successfully, though it is simpler now that he does not have to run the name of every party through a computer. Michael Loeb, a partner at Bingham McCutchen, says he does three or four mediation cases a month at his firm, in addition to the bulk of the work he does as a private employment lawyer. “It’s a nice change of pace,” Loeb says. “But it is not a full-time practice or one that would be enough to support me and make a substantial contribution to the firm.” Mark Rudy, still a practicing plaintiff attorney, says his situation is different since he normally represents individual clients on a one-time basis. “I have seen people from large law firms only develop a good book of business after they left those firms,” he said.

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