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Ritchey Fisher Whitman & Klein, an old-line boutique firm in Palo Alto known for its ties to the city’s mayor’s office, has agreed to be acquired by Minneapolis-based Dorsey & Whitney. Ritchey Fisher, which over the years has provided the city with three of its mayors, recently celebrated its 40th birthday with a letter of intent to merge with Dorsey’s 600-lawyer firm. Dorsey came to the San Francisco Bay Area three years ago after acquiring intellectual property firm Flehr Hohbach Test Albritton & Herbert and already has 30 lawyers in San Francisco and Palo Alto. The Ritchey Fisher deal will add another 15 lawyers to the Dorsey firm. “We are executing on a strategy that began three years ago,” says Maria Swiatek, who heads Dorsey’s Palo Alto office. “It had been our business plan to expand with the addition of corporate and litigation to round out our IP practice.” Lawyers at the Ritchey firm say they think they’ll be able to better serve their clients by working at a larger firm. “Dorsey has offices in Seattle and Southern California,” says Craig Ritchey. “What was very attractive to us was New York, and also the Asian offices are very important to us.” Ritchey says his firm grew up with Silicon Valley, representing such companies as Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp. and Apple Computer. It also has ties with Stanford University. Jean McCown, a former partner at the firm, was a Palo Alto mayor who became director of community relations at Stanford after leaving the firm. Bradford O’Brien, a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, describes the Ritchey firm as “one of the last old-line, high quality small firms in Palo Alto.” Ritchey says the decision to merge “came about because we had been receiving quite a few overtures from firms.” Nelson Dong, now a Dorsey partner in Seattle, had once worked at the Ritchey firm. Dong and Ritchey had been White House fellows together during the Carter administration. “We already had some relationship with the Dorsey firm,” says Ritchey. Marie-Ann Hogarth is a reporter for The Recorder.

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