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DLA Piper and Baker & McKenzie, both with new top marketing executives, may be duking it out later this year in a crosstown rivalry over the rights to the moniker “largest U.S. law firm,” based on worldwide attorney headcount. DLA Piper’s new global chief marketing officer, Jolene Overbeck, called her firm “the challenger” and said in an interview that she expects it will “probably” overtake Baker for the top slot this year. “Baker and DLA have been within a hair’s breadth of each other on size for a bit,” she said. DLA had 3,211 full-time equivalent attorneys worldwide as of February, while Baker said it had 3,082 such attorneys that month. That would flip-flop the no. 1 and no. 2 positions reported last year in The National Law Journal‘s NLJ 250, when Baker listed 3,535 lawyers and DLA had 3,333. Baker is likely to take the battle head-on with a top new marketing executive, who just happens to have come from DLA Piper. Baker spokeswoman Jessica Benzon said the firm will announce in June that Jan Dubin, who was director of client relations at DLA this month, is coming on board at the firm. Benzon declined to comment on the looming headcount fight, saying that only the firm’s chairman could speak to the issue of headcount and he wasn’t available. She did note that the firm’s overall lawyer headcount is currently 3,495, including part-time and flex-time attorneys. DLA’s comparable figure is 3,470, said John Corey, a spokesman for the firm. Both of the firms have roots and major offices in Chicago, which has become an increasingly competitive market as major U.S. firms, such as Paul Hastings, Janofsky & Walker and Reed Smith, have moved into the city over the past year. Chicago firms have turned their sights to new markets, often international ones, as the rivals have come to the Midwest for new clients. “The traditional leading pack has been invaded by a number of firms that have come very successfully into profitable markets,” Overbeck said. DLA Piper, the product of a three-way, trans-Atlantic merger in January 2005, will seek outside confirmation of its hunch on size later this year. The firm is in the process of rolling out a new image to make its geographic and practice breadth clear and to show the world an integrated practice. The firm started a new ad campaign in March, launched a new Web site and hired Overbeck this month as its first global chief marketing officer. Both firms offer an array of legal practice services. DLA Piper has carved out a niche in the area of real estate and also has focused on its intellectual property practice. Baker & McKenzie has focused on tax, finance and other transactional matters.

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