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For Mayer Brown this was a year of reductions. From the shortening of the firm’s name to the trimming of its partnership, 2007 saw the Chicago-based outfit struggle with transitions. What direction that transition takes from here remains to be seen. In one important respect, the firm didn’t shrink. To replace chairman Tyrone Fahner, Mayer unveiled a three-headed chairman’s office composed of two appellate lawyers � Chicago’s James Holzhauer, the de facto chairman and previous general counsel of the firm, and Washington’s Kenneth Geller, the vice chairman � and London’s vice chairman, Paul Maher, who focuses on mergers and acquisitions. While that triumvirate tussled over who would have the upper hand, the firm also endured the defection of at least 20 partners from its New York office and a spring de-equitization of 45 partners (Washington was mostly spared in the purge). The biggest loss came when high-profile litigation partner Alan Salpeter jumped to the Chicago office of LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae after 35 years at Mayer Brown. Over the past five years, Salpeter was the firm’s highest-paid partner, thanks mainly to institutional clients such as Ernst & Young and the Canadian International Bank of Commerce. Current and former partners say the firm is also bedeviled by flagging profits in its New York and London offices. It got no help from bankruptcy examiner Joshua Hochberg, a Washington partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge, who issued a critical report in July alleging that Mayer improperly helped clients move bad debt off the books. The ongoing case involves the bankruptcy of Refco Inc., a brokerage firm that imploded in 2005 amid charges that the company manipulated its financial statements. The Refco trustees filed a series of lawsuits in the fall, totaling billions of dollars, claiming that the firm aided in the defrauding of customers. The Securities and Exchange Commission has also sued the firm on Refco issues. Mayer Brown’s attorneys can only hope that 2008 brings different kinds of reductions � such as the number of lawsuits against the firm.
Nathan Carlile can be contacted at [email protected].

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