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Asbestos has long been a moneymaker at Swidler Berlin. But the firm’s prized practice isn’t worth enough to its merger partner Bingham McCutchen, which has pushed Swidler’s 10-lawyer bankruptcy group out of the planned union. The reason: More than a third of the bankruptcy practice involves representing companies on asbestos claims, which conflicts with Bingham’s work for insurance companies in asbestos cases. But don’t feel too sorry for the group, which landed smoothly last week at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. (Orrick and Swidler first got to know each other when the firms were in merger talks in 2004.) Despite pending legislation that would cut down on asbestos litigation, Orrick bankruptcy co-chair Lorraine McGowen says the firm is not concerned about the future profitability of the practice. “The expertise gained in asbestos will be able to be used in any other mass tort,” she says. The group, led by one-time managing partner at Swidler Roger Frankel, counts clients including Massachusetts Electric Co. and New England Power Co. Although Frankel, who will co-chair Orrick’s bankruptcy practice, says the move is bittersweet, he still believes “that Bingham was the best firm for the most people.”
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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