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CHICAGO-For firms with a major presence in Chicago, there’s a recent urge to expand in the nation’s financial capital, New York. Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw; Schiff Hardin; Seyfarth Shaw; DLA Piper; and Katten Muchin Rosenman are among the firms that expect their New York offices to approximately double in attorneys over the next two to three years. Most of the firms said financial services clients are driving the growth as banks, brokers, hedge funds and private equity firms seek more legal services. While the law firms are growing generally, they said their New York offices are calling for the most expansion. New York is increasingly important as a hub between U.S. and European offices, some of the firms said. Connecting the dots At Mayer Brown, part of the firm’s strategy is making sure that attorneys and clients working in the firm’s London, Paris and other European offices have a strong connection to the U.S. network through New York. “The keys to the future success of this firm is connecting those dots,” said Brian Trust, the partner in charge of Mayer Brown’s New York office. “From a strategic perspective, we think it’s time that we grow in New York.” The firm, which has 1,400 attorneys worldwide, expects to about double the 210-attorney head count in New York in the next two to three years, Trust said. Still, the expansion will depend on client demand, he said. Among the firm’s clients is Bank of America Corp. “That’s where I see the most pressure to add people,” Vincent Sergi, the national managing partner at Katten, said of his firm’s New York office. Katten, which has 625 attorneys worldwide, is aiming to have 300 or more attorneys in its New York office, up from its current tally of 180. The firm, which had just one partner in New York before it merged with Rosenman & Colin in 2002, needs the bigger legal work force mainly to meet growing demand from financial services and real estate finance clients, Sergi said. The expansion by some historically Chicago-based firms in New York comes at a time when rivals, mainly from the East Coast, have targeted the Midwest city for growth. [NLJ, Sept. 25]. Most U.S. firms are intent on making sure they have a national presence large enough to attract new attorneys and keep large corporate clients satisfied with service. DLA Piper, which has 3,200 attorneys worldwide, is looking to boost the attorney count in its New York office to 300 over the next several years, from 176 now, building up the firm’s merger and acquisition, corporate and other financial transaction work, said John Corey, a spokesman for the firm. Five years ago, DLA Piper’s office in the city was half its current size. Space for 150 Seyfarth Shaw is moving to a new location in New York to accommodate its future expansion, said John Napoli, co-managing partner of that office. The move, into the Renzo Piano-designed building at 620 Eighth Ave. in midtown Manhattan, will happen next year. The firm, which has had an office in the city for 20 years, currently has almost 80 attorneys. The new space will have room for 150. Seyfarth has 650 attorneys worldwide and is largely known for its employment and labor practices. Much of the rising customer demand for services in the city is being driven by hedge funds and other financial funds, Napoli said. “They’ve become such a big player in the real estate and corporate areas,” he said. Schiff Hardin wants to develop a “significant presence” in New York because clients of the traditionally Midwest firm increasingly want it to handle their business nationwide, said Ronald Safer, managing partner of the firm. “We developed that office in a careful, steady, but deliberate fashion,” Safer said. “Now, we have a platform on which we can build.” Schiff Hardin, which has 35 attorneys in New York and 360 firmwide, expects to have 70 in New York by 2010. Among its current clients there is the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Firms such as Sidley Austin and Kirkland & Ellis plan to continue the steady gradual growth that their New York offices have experienced in the past. For instance, Kirkland, which has about 260 lawyers in the city, adds about 20 to 40 attorneys per year, said Kirk Radke, a senior partner in the office. Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal’s New York office will expand as part of the firm’s overall 40% planned growth over the next several years. The firm wouldn’t break down specifics for the city because the growth will be based on practices. “When you’re looking to be an international player, you can’t do it credibly without a significant New York office,” said Ross Fishman, a Chicago-based marketing consultant.

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