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Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe’s failure to close a merger deal with Dewey Ballantine earlier this year caused it to lose out on something it wanted bad: the New York firm’s vaunted M&A practice. Now, the San Francisco-based firm is trying to build its New York M&A capabilities with a veteran deal lawyer from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. Howard Shecter, who will be joining Orrick Monday, spent 39 years at Morgan, Lewis, serving as the firm’s managing partner, chairman and more recently the head of the business and finance practice. Shecter, 64, said he was drawn to Orrick by the opportunity to build up the firm’s M&A practice. “I saw a firm that was highly regarded in finance, particularly in structured finance, and they have an M&A capacity � they’re doing the Acer deal and have a great team in Paris � but they don’t have a strong presence in New York,” said Shecter on Friday. “It may be my parochial view, but I believe to have a great M&A platform you need to have a strong New York component to that, and I want to be part of building that at Orrick.” In the past year or so, Shecter has served as counsel to Playtex Products Inc. in its $1.9 billion sale to Energizer Products; Sierra Health Services Inc. in its $2.6 billion acquisition by UnitedHealth Group; and Digital Insight in its $1.3 billion sale to Intuit Inc. He’s also represented senior management groups in private equity buyout deals, like the $17 billion one for Freescale Semiconductor last year. “It’s a loss in a cultural sense,” said Francis Milone, chairman of 1,300-lawyer Morgan, Lewis. “Everyone has great respect for Howard � he earned it � but we have a very strong and very deep corporate department with many fine M&A lawyers.” Asked how much Shecter was practicing at Morgan, Lewis, Milone said “somewhat, in some target areas” like M&A. In addition to practicing at 980-lawyer Orrick, Shecter will be recruiting more M&A lawyers and trying to sell the firm’s existing clients on its deal practice, which currently has about 160 lawyers, said Ralph Baxter Jr., Orrick’s chairman and CEO. “Building on our M&A strength is one of our highest priorities,” said Baxter. “As part of our global strategy we need to build out M&A everywhere in the world. We’ve made enormous progress, but we need to make more progress to keep pace with the changing world.” Shecter said he didn’t know if he would be bringing any clients over from Morgan, Lewis. “It’s really too early to say,” said Shecter. “My clients have been deeply institutionalized at Morgan, Lewis.” But he did say he harbored no ill will toward the only firm he’s ever worked for. “The reasons are personal, it had nothing to do with Morgan, Lewis, which has been a home to me,” Shecter said. “After 39 years, it’s exciting to take on new challenges � it’ll be a recharge for me.” The decision to hire Shecter doesn’t mean Orrick’s given up on trying to grow through the acquisition of entire transactional practices, Baxter said. “We will continue to look for additional lawyers: associates, partners, groups, entire offices; and we will continue to consider, if and when we see the opportunity, firms we could merge into Orrick.”

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