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Merger talks between Stoel Rives and Sacramento firm Weintraub Genshlea Chediak continue to chug along into the sixth month, sources close to the matter have confirmed. Although it is unclear what stage discussions are in, several people have said they are “serious.” By merging with 34-lawyer Weintraub, Stoel would make good on its California expansion plans, while Weintraub would benefit from Stoel’s strong regional presence. Stoel Rives, a 355-attorney firm based in Portland, Ore., has in the past voiced intent to expand its San Francisco and Sacramento offices, which currently employ 22 and 11 lawyers respectively. Word of merger discussions first emerged in May. Leaders of both firms did not respond to telephone calls seeking comment. Growing in this state’s most competitive regions is not easy for outsiders. “I think all the Pacific Northwest firms have found it to be a substantial challenge to grow in California, mainly because the profits per partner are so much higher than in the Pacific Northwest,” Peter Zeughauser, founder of Newport Beach-based Zeughauser Group, said. “It’s hard to lure lateral talent. That may be a little easier in Sacramento.” Stoel Rives, known for its natural resources, environment, alternative energy and litigation practices, gained its San Francisco, Sacramento and two other small offices through a 2001 merger with Washburn, Briscoe & McCarthy. The merger was rocky, some partners admitted, and though the firm lost several partners � including Edgar “Ned” Washburn and John Briscoe � Stoel has been adding bodies. In June, five attorneys joined the San Francisco and Sacramento offices. The firm’s revenue and profits per partner have increased over the past few years. In 2005, revenue per lawyer was $495,000, up from $425,000 in 2003, while profits per partner bumped to $425,000 from $370,000 in the same time period. Christopher Keele, Stoel’s managing partner for San Francisco and Sacramento, described what the firm is looking for in a potential California partner. “In Sacramento in particular, we are looking for opportunities to grow our strong natural resources and real estate practice,” Keele said in an e-mail. “We may also consider opportunities to expand our services in areas where we can provide additional resources to existing clients as well as attract new clients.” Though not well-known in the Bay Area, Weintraub is well-regarded in the state’s capital as a litigation and real estate outfit. “I think of them as a litigation law firm, good solid real estate, entertainment and intellectual property,” Greenberg Traurig shareholder Carol Livingston said. In terms of talent, attorneys in the area cite founding partner Joseph Genshlea, who was inducted into the State Bar’s Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame in 2001. He represents Bank of America, among other clients. Christopher Chediak is a respected business attorney. One former Weintraub partner said the merger made sense for both firms. “What Stoel would bring to Weintraub is more participation in litigation and business,” the lawyer said. “From Stoel’s perspective, the guys at Weintraub are all talented lawyers.” Weintraub did hit upon hard times in 2005, though, and lost several heavy hitters. The exodus included top billers Robin Klomparens, an estate planning and probate attorney, and former name partner and real estate lawyer Curtis Sproul. In all, more than a dozen lawyers left in the past year and a half, a former attorney said. In February, the firm lost its chief financial officer, head of marketing, top computer professional and several associates. “There are still a lot of good lawyers there, but I think they’re kind of a sinking ship,” the lawyer said. “If they’re going to survive, somebody’s got to scoop them up.” Due to a reporting error, a Sept. 28 story about merger discussions between Stoel Rives and Weintraub incorrectly stated that the latter firm fired its chief financial officer, head of marketing, top computer professional and several associates. In fact, the firm in February laid off the chief financial officer, the head of marketing and “some associates,” while the computer professional resigned several months later. We regret the errors.

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