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WASHINGTON — Northern Virginia-based Burns, Doane, Swecker & Mathis is being acquired by Buchanan Ingersoll, the two firms announced Wednesday. The acquisition gives Buchanan 57 attorneys and more than 100 staffers and will significantly bulk up the Pittsburgh-based firm’s intellectual property capabilities. But it also gives Buchanan an IP boutique that has been buffeted in recent years by the departure of major rainmakers and its biggest client, the Ericsson Corp. For Burns, Doane, which had signed leases in Northern Virginia and Northern California near the top of the technology bubble, the coupling with 345-attorney Buchanan should give it financial stability as it seeks to stem the tide of departures that have more than halved the firm’s head count over the past five years. “We talked to a number of firms,” says Joseph Gess, Burns, Doane’s chairman, in a news release. “Buchanan Ingersoll really set itself apart. They understand our practice and showed us right from the beginning how we would fit together.” Integrating Buchanan’s litigators and Burns, Doane’s patent lawyers, who focus primarily on helping clients process patent applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, will be a key to making the merger succeed. In recent years, as IP cases have grown ever more profitable for law firms, boutiques like Burns, Doane have been squeezed out of top-tier litigation by competition from large general-practice firms such as Howrey and Cooley Godward. Whether Buchanan can leverage Burns, Doane’s patent attorneys’ technical expertise and its relationships with corporate general counsel into more big-ticket IP litigation remains to be seen. The acquisition marks the disappearance of yet another IP boutique. Since 2002, New York’s Pennie & Edmonds and Fish & Neave and California’s Lyon & Lyon have also been swallowed by general-practice firms. After the merger, Burns, Doane’s 50-attorney headquarters in Alexandria, Va., will become the Northern Virginia office of Buchanan, with Gess remaining as the office’s managing partner. With Buchanan’s 40-attorney D.C. office, the combined firm will have 90 attorneys in the D.C. area, making it one of the 50 largest firms in the metro area. Five Burns, Doane attorneys in Northern California and two in its San Diego outpost will also join Buchanan. Jason McLure is a reporter with Legal Times, a Recorder affiliate based in Washington.

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