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White & Case announced Friday the firm is closing its 5-year-old San Francisco office and focusing instead on building out its technology practices in Palo Alto. “The future investment required in order to develop San Francisco into a full-service office would be more productively used intensifying our focus on developing tech, IP and patent litigation practices,” said Roger Cohen, a firm spokesman. The status of the office’s nine partners, 11 associates and two counsel was being discussed, Cohen said. While many of the lawyers in the firm’s Palo Alto office focus on IP, the San Francisco lawyers tend to practice in the areas of corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, executive compensation, banking and energy. William Coats, who heads the firm’s Palo Alto office, said some of the lawyers would come to work in Palo Alto and others might move to other offices, such as New York or London. He didn’t know if any lawyers would be leaving the firm. Neither Cohen nor Coats had any information about staff. While there is no official closing date for the office, Cohen said the firm is aiming to complete an orderly transfer by June 30. The decision was prompted by a recently completed strategic review of the firm’s practices. “Within a matter of several days and weeks, this review has been reaching a crescendo,” Cohen said. He declined to answer questions about the office’s lease and when it was up. One person in the San Francisco office said the announcement was made inside the firm on Wednesday and that it came as a surprise. The mood was somber. White & Case first opened its San Francisco office in July 2001 in temporary space at One Market. The office today is located at Four Embarcadero Center. In September 2002, a White & Case partner told The Recorder that she expected the San Francisco office to reach 25 or 30 lawyers within a year. In February 2003, Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison partners William Harvey, David Dedyo and Kevin Fisher joined the San Francisco office. Fisher was the executive partner in charge of the San Francisco office. Another former Brobeck partner, G. Larry Engel, later joined from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. The firm’s Web site lists him in both the S.F. and Palo Alto offices. By comparison, the firm’s Palo Alto office was opened in 1999 and in the last year doubled its lawyer headcount to almost 30 � most notably with the addition of IP litigator Coats from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. Legal recruiter Larry Watanabe, of Watanabe Nason & Seltzer, said it’s hard to gain critical mass in the Northern California market. “Through the tech boom, a lot of firms moved into the Bay Area or Northern California with the hope of being able to attract high-quality laterals,” he said. “There have been a lot of firms that have stumbled [at] around 20 or 25 lawyers. “You will see more firms looking at the expense structure quite carefully, and deciding if that is the best use of their capital, and asking, ‘Is that office necessary to the fabric of the firm?’” Last month, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy announced it would shutter its 12-lawyer office in Silicon Valley after IP litigator James Pooley said he was leaving. The firm at the time said it would prefer to deploy its resources elsewhere, including China. Although Cohen says closing offices doesn’t happen frequently, the firm did make a similar announcement last July when it closed its Rome office and decided to focus on building out Milan.

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