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The defection last week of Barry Barbash’s investment fund practice from Shearman & Sterling to Willkie Farr & Gallagher apparently was all about priorities. Barbash, who took four partners with him, plans to recruit other Shearman lawyers to bulk up Willkie Farr’s group to about 25. He is returning to Willkie Farr, where he practiced for 13 years before becoming the director of investment management for the Securities and Exchange Commission. He had worked at Shearman since 1998. The move, which he said will provide a better platform for hedge fund and private equity work, is a wallop to Shearman, which now has three partners in its asset management division. John Madden, co-managing partner at Shearman & Sterling, said that the firm remains “fully committed” to its asset management practice. Barbash, who will head Willkie Farr’s investment fund group, said that Shearman is increasingly focused on global mergers and acquisitions work, a strategy that he said does not provide the degree of support that Willkie can for so-called alternative investment business. “At Shearman, the platform is not as developed in the alternative side,” he said. Barbash’s group was most recently noted for representing Legg Mason Inc. in its $3.7 billion acquisition of Citigroup Inc.’s mutual fund business last year. To be sure, Shearman’s mergers and acquisitions business is a mainstay for the 1,013-attorney firm. Deals handled last year alone included the $50 billion division of Viacom’s businesses into separate publicly traded companies, and the $27.2 billion contested bid by Boston Scientific Corp. for Guidant Corp. Shearman’s gross revenue in 2004, the last year those figures were available, was $775 million, making it the 11th top-grossing law firm in the nation, according to The American Lawyer, a sister publication of The National Law Journal. Shearman’s figures for 2004 represent a 6.1% increase from 2003. Shearman lost 40 lawyers, or 3.7% of its size, in 2005, according to the NLJ 2005 survey of the nation’s 250 largest law firms. Willkie Farr, with 598 lawyers, had $416 million in gross revenue in 2004, up 17.8% from 2003. It ranks 46th among U.S. law firms in terms of gross revenue. The firm’s size fell by two lawyers last year. Barbash’s move marks the second departure of a practice area leader at Shearman in a year. In March, three of its antitrust partners, including Steven Sunshine, who headed the practice, left for Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. This month, New York finance partner William Giusti moved to Baker Botts. Giusti, who handles energy projects financing, said that Shearman’s practices remain diversified. He said that his switch to Baker Botts, which is entrenched in the energy sector, was a “great opportunity” for his practice area. Joining Barbash in Willkie Farr’s Washington office is Karrie McMillan. Former Shearman partners Joel Goldberg, Margery Neale and Maria Gattuso will work in its New York office. Barbash said he is trying to recruit associates and one senior counsel from Shearman to add to his new firm’s practice. Before Barbash’s move, Willkie’s investment management practice included four partner-Burton Liebert, Rose DiMartino, Daniel Schloendorn and Emily Zeigler-plus two senior counsel.

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