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After more than 30 years as a name partner at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, Robert Lieff is stepping down and starting a new aviation firm: Lieff Global LLP, which is slated to take off with about five lawyers Jan. 1. The new entity will focus primarily on international aviation cases. But Lieff won’t be going far: He will remain of counsel at the firm he helped found, which will continue to work closely with him on existing cases and offer litigation support for new work. Lieff Cabraser will keep the same name, and the departing partner will continue to practice out of the firm’s San Francisco offices. “It’s a natural progression for me for what I’ve done personally in my career,” Lieff said. “It’s driven by my own desire to have a small entity in which we could specialize in this small area and to develop it internationally.” Lieff Global will become lead litigation counsel to those Lieff Cabraser aviation clients the partners already share, Lieff Cabraser Managing Partner Steven Fineman said. The bigger firm will have the choice of co-counseling future Lieff Global clients, Fineman said. The two sides declined to describe financial agreements except to say that the firms will share expenses and revenues in cases that involve existing shared clients, while the financial agreements for new clients brought in under the Lieff Global umbrella will be decided as they develop, Fineman said. Lieff Cabraser had been in merger talks with securities class action mega-firm Milberg Weiss, but those discussions ultimately broke down. It is unclear whether those events affected Lieff’s decision to launch the new firm, although Fineman said Lieff’s plans had been under way before the Milberg talks began. Lieff Cabraser attorneys have litigated on behalf of families and victims of air disasters over the past 30 years, including those affected by the United Airlines 747 cargo-door catastrophe near Honolulu in 1989, and, more recently, families of victims in the 2006 Comair Bombardier CRJ-100 crash in Lexington, Ky., according to the firm’s Web site. Neither Lieff nor Lieff Cabraser representatives would name the lawyers who will join Lieff Global, but Fineman said that no partners would be leaving Lieff Cabraser. According to the firm’s Web site, members of the firm’s aviation team include partners Robert Nelson, Elizabeth Cabraser, of counsel Nigel Taylor, and associates David Fiol and Lexi Hazam. Fiol helped draft the trial and appellate briefs that led to recoveries for the families of those who died on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. London-based Taylor, who became of counsel at Lieff Cabraser last year, has negotiated settlements on behalf of the families of passengers who died in the Air France Concorde disaster at Charles de Gaulle airport in July 2000. “Bob and a group of people in Lieff Global have developed an expertise in aviation cases and a network of co-counsel around the world,” Fineman said. The network includes Martin-Chico & Associates, based in France, and Toronto-based Rochon Genova. Lieff Cabraser’s Nelson said the firm is working on about half a dozen cases with Martin-Chico at the moment. “[Lieff's] earned the luxury to do what he wants, and we’re happy to accommodate him in this venture,” Nelson said. Cabraser said aviation litigation involves a lot of travel and is one of the reasons the global affiliate makes sense. “It’s impossible to run a large firm and travel at the same time.”

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