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Drinker Biddle & Reath’s expansion mode didn’t end with the acquisition of 170-lawyer Chicago firm Gardner Carton & Douglas in January. The firm has been growing all year in the Windy City and across the country, and will surpass the 675-attorney mark in February with its most recent acquisition. Drinker Biddle announced yesterday that it would acquire 13-attorney employment law boutique Connelly Sheehan Harris in Chicago, effective Feb. 1, 2008. The combination will continue the firm’s growth in the area of human resource law, particularly on the litigation side. Drinker Biddle added two employment litigators in San Francisco in January and will add another from the disbanding Miller Alfano & Raspanti firm when a group of 11 litigators from that firm joins in January. An employee benefits attorney joined the Chicago office in October. Chairman Alfred W. Putnam Jr. said in a statement that the firm will have close to 75 attorneys practicing in various aspects of human resources law, including wage-and-hour class actions, unfair competition, labor law, ERISA cases and discrimination litigation. The firm also has a focus on employee benefits and executive compensation, he said. In an interview yesterday, Putnam said the firm has an interest in national practices. The firm has had employment litigators on the coasts, but not so many in Chicago. He said there is always an interest in the class action side of employment litigation because that is where firms his size can be most competitive. Litigation wasn’t the sole focus, however. Prior to its merger with Gardner Carton, Drinker Biddle organized its employment-related practices by specific name, such as labor, or ERISA. He said Gardner Carton was structured as a human resources practice that handled all employment needs and was much more effective that way. The firm adopted that structure and has been looking to add in any of the areas within it. Putnam said some of the strongest additions from the human resources group in Chicago were on the nonlitigation side. While he wouldn’t say what the litigation boutique Connelly Sheehan would add to Drinker Biddle’s bottom line, Putnam said the firm had substantial clients. John Cashman, managing director of the Chicago office of Major Lindsey & Africa, represented Connelly Sheehan in the deal. He said the firm has a strong national practice and calls companies like AIG and MetLife clients. He said the firm was open to the possibility of a merger but didn’t feel it had to merge to survive. Cashman said Connelly Sheehan talked to several firms, but ultimately decided on Drinker Biddle. All of the attorneys at Connelly Sheehan will join Drinker Biddle. Michael Sheehan, Martin Harris, Rachel Cowen and Kristine Aubin will join as partners. P. Kevin Connelly will join as of counsel, and John A. Berg and Brian E. Spang will join as counsel. Heather A. Bailey, Michael S. Booher, Nathalie Q. Collins, Richard S. Cozza, Esther Vreeman-Moll and Terence P. Smith will join as associates. According to a statement from Connelly Sheehan co-founder Sheehan, the firm was founded in 1990 and reached a point in which it needed a national platform. The expansion is also a part of Drinker Biddle’s efforts to grow its Chicago office. “We have a strong commitment to increasing our litigation presence in this office,” Edwin A. Getz, partner in charge of the Chicago office, said in a statement. “We intend to keep building upon our strengths locally in the areas of products liability, employment litigation and class actions, and securities and corporate governance.” Drinker Biddle added three securities litigation partners to its Chicago office from Mayer Brown in October. The firm has not focused solely on expanding in Chicago since its January merger, as evidenced by its recent move up the list of the The Legal‘s sister publication PaLAW 2007, which ranks the largest firms in the state by number of attorneys in Pennsylvania. Drinker Biddle moved from 13th place in 2006 to 10th on the list in 2007. The firm had 212 attorneys in Pennsylvania as of June 10, 2007 � the cutoff for the survey � and had 631 attorneys in total. Putnam said Drinker Biddle is clearly interested in the Philadelphia market and has been hiring new associates and lateral partners. The firm doesn’t have a set number of attorneys it wants to have in the city, but it has been looking to fill any gaps to stay competitive, he said. By January, Drinker Biddle will have built back the white collar defense group after the departure in 2005 of Michael Holston and a group of 13 other attorneys, Putnam said. Part of the 11-litigator group from Miller Alfano, led by Gregory Miller, will serve in that practice area along with recent addition Barry Gross, a former assistant U.S. attorney. At 675 attorneys, Drinker Biddle will be larger in pure numbers than many of its Philadelphia competitors, including Duane Morris, Blank Rome, Pepper Hamilton, Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, and Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. Although he didn’t say whether the firm has changed position in the local marketplace, Putnam said that with the addition of that many attorneys “you’re conscious of the fact that you’re a much bigger animal.” He said that has its advantages, but certainly its disadvantages as well. He said he doubts the firm would be near 1,000 lawyers within the next couple of years. Attorneys leave firms much more frequently in the current market than they did years ago, he said. For example, Drinker Biddle saw the departure last month of three intellectual property attorneys to Woodcock Washburn. Hiring and promotion decisions are made on a much broader scale now than they were when Putnam started practicing, he said. As Drinker Biddle grows on a national scale, Cashman said the firm’s efforts in Chicago have given it “significant momentum” in a quickly consolidating marketplace. He said it was a “real feather in the cap for management in Philadelphia” to enter the Chicago market and complete two acquisitions in about a year.

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