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Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher has poached prominent land use partner Mary Murphy from Farella Braun & Martel. Murphy, known for her work on several significant Bay Area projects, including the Ferry Building and Piers 1-1/2, 3 and 5, is the second partner to leave Farella for another firm in the last 18 months. Bruce Deming, who headed Farella’s business transactions group, departed in 2005 for Covington & Burling. Before that, Farella hadn’t seen a partner-level lawyer lateral to another firm since 1998. Murphy, who started her legal career at Farella in 1987, said the growing needs of her practice prompted her move. “My clients have historically been San Francisco-based, but I have represented more statewide-based companies over time,” Murphy said. “The clients have changed. Their profiles have changed. There is a big advantage to being in a firm that is L.A.-based and has a big national presence.” The move is also significant to industry observers because Gibson is so selective in its hiring practices. The 738-attorney firm boasts revenue per lawyer of over $1 million, and its profits per equity partner stand at $1.6 million. By comparison, Farella’s approximately 120 lawyers generated $74 million in revenue in 2005. The firm doesn’t disclose all of its financial information, but that would place revenue per lawyer at around $617,000. Nonetheless, it did attract three lateral partners in 2005, including one lawyer from Morrison & Foerster. Amy Forbes, who heads Gibson’s land-use practice, recruited Murphy after mutual client Chris Meany introduced them. Meany is the developer of the Ferry Building in San Francisco and the Bay Meadows development project in San Mateo. “We are both very excited,” Forbes said. “I’ve been doing work in Northern California and Southern California and Hawaii and the Bahamas, projects all over. We are … growing and will have tremendous opportunity, and we have so many mutual clients.” In what is perhaps a nod to Farella’s strong culture, Forbes says she talked to Murphy for three years before finally persuading her to join the firm. “Culturally, it is a sound and a stable place, and that is what continues to keep a lot of people there,” Deming agreed. But he adds that, “For some people in certain practice areas, with the evolution of the market, some people feel the need to go to a bigger firm for their practice.” In addition, the move bucks the trend of large firms downsizing their real estate practices. O’Melveny & Myers de-emphasized its own several years ago, according to several lawyers, and it is often the case these days that real estate lawyers are moving from larger to smaller firms. “It shows that you are a go-to person if you can take a practice that was at a mid-sized firm and move it to a large, global law firm” agreed recruiter Avis Caravello. That Gibson provides sophisticated real estate advice on matters of enormous consequence allows it to sustain big-firm rates, Forbes said. Often, the firm is billing hourly in these one-off transactions, but she argued that Gibson is more efficient than others. The firm also represents investors needing high-level strategic advice. “The issue for them is, ‘Do I have what I think I have, and can I build what I think I can build?’” she added. “So again, for them it is worth it to pay marginally more.” Murphy said it was too early to tell if clients would be following her from Farella. A former principal representing the Presidio Trust, she also assisted Westfield in the development of 1 million square feet of retail and office space at the former Emporium department store site in San Francisco. Murphy is a single mother with two children, ages 16 and 14.

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