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Prior to the merger with Shaw Pittman, Abrams led Pillsbury’s IP practice, said Pillsbury partner Vernon Granneman, head of litigation in the firm’s Palo Alto office. Abrams then chaired the firm’s IP litigation team, but Pillsbury eliminated that title in the last few months as part of its reorganization, according to Granneman.

“Bill’s a good guy, and I am sorry to see him go,” Granneman said. “These comings and goings get so commonplace, one becomes numb.”

Pillsbury still has a sizeable IP practice group of 180 lawyers, Granneman said. But some observers don’t take such a rosy view.

“This leaves Pillsbury pretty thin in terms of IP litigation in Silicon Valley. I don’t know how else to sugar-coat it,” legal recruiter Carl Baier said.

“I think what is really going on at Pillsbury is part of the fallout from having done a series of mergers,” Baier said. “Bill Abrams is not the first partner to leave, and he won’t be the last.”

Abrams joined Pillsbury in 1999 from Rogers, Joseph, O’Donnell & Quinn. He previously served as managing partner of the San Francisco office of Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro and as a partner with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.

Pillsbury has seen at least four other partners leave in the past two months from its offices in California, although none of these moves were in the IP area. The firm lost three partners � Keith Gercken, Maureen Corcoran and Ethan Feffer � to Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, and recently saw Deborah Ludewig leave for Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham.

“Losing the premiere partner in your Palo Alto office will really require the IP partners in other offices, in Los Angeles or Washington, D.C., to really step up to the plate,” said legal recruiter Gary Davis, of Patterson Davis Consulting. “Not that they weren’t stepping up before, but folks are really going to have to raise their own profiles.”

Pillsbury really got into IP with the acquisition of Washington, D.C.-based Cushman Darby & Cushman in 1996, Davis added. Some of those lawyers relocated to California, but, for the most part, he thought the Abrams loss put the firm’s IP center back on the East Coast.

“They’ve got to look at where to go with IP,” he said. “How do we continue to attract the technology clients and the IP litigation work and the talent. The fight for IP continues.”