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Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker will see four of its U.S. attorneys handling international energy and infrastructure legal work exit the firm as the market for lawyers with such project development know-how, especially in the energy field, heats up. The departures of the lawyers, who work on everything from energy facilities to highways to oil pipelines, will have the biggest impact on the group’s Latin America team. Jorge E. Alers, a partner who was a co-head of that regional team, is leaving the Washington office to return to his native Costa Rica to work as a banker and continue on a contract basis for the firm. Dino T. Barajas, the other co-head, left this month to join Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, splitting his time between the New York and Los Angeles offices, as he did at Paul Hastings. Two other Paul Hastings attorneys in the group, Peter B. Saba and Bob L. Vitale, are leaving next month to take in-house posts at companies that are clients of the firm. Saba, who was of counsel to Paul Hastings, will become the general counsel at USEC Inc. in Bethesda, Md. Vitale, the partner who led the global projects group in New York, will take the same title at a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based TCW Group Inc. Both attorneys also dabbled in Latin America work. “One of the reasons these guys are leaving is because they’re in a hot market,” said John D. Hawkins, the New York-based Paul Hastings attorney who leads the global project development and finance group. From 15 to 50 Hawkins said his Paul Hastings group now has 50 attorneys, up from about 15 five years ago. The firm will be looking to hire more attorneys who can pick up the slack in the wake of the departures, he said. The firm gained an attorney in Chicago this month when it hired Tim Callahan as a partner to work on renewable energy projects. Hawkins said his group is dedicating more resources to fast-growing regions such as Asia and Eastern Europe where there’s greater demand for project attorneys than in Latin America. The political risk and weaker economic performance of Latin America make it less attractive, he said. “Most firms have limited resources,” said Chuck Santangelo, a consultant at Hildebrandt International in Naples, Fla. The firms are “not going to take a flier in South America and China at the same time.” As populous countries such as India and China have begun to see their economies grow at higher rates than other parts of the world, their demand for new infrastructure projects, such as power facilities, has surged, fueling the need for lawyers who can help develop and finance such work. “It’s going to be extremely important to make sure you’re bringing up new infrastructure developments when the market needs it and taking advantage of the capital that’s in the market now,” Barajas said. At Paul Hastings, Barajas in recent years worked on the Xacbal power project in Guatemala and the Rio general power project in Costa Rica. Now, as a member of the Morgan Lewis corporate practice, he’ll work on domestic and international energy and power projects with a continuing emphasis on Latin America. Vitale, who came to Paul Hastings in 2005, will move to Los Angeles to take his new role at a startup TCW Group unit that will invest in energy projects around the world, he said. Saba, who previously worked at the Export-Import Bank of the United States and with the U.S. Department of Energy group that created USEC Inc., will now lead the company’s legal work with respect to a uranium enrichment project in Piketon, Ohio. Despite the loss of respected colleagues, Hawkins is pleased that Vitale and Saba’s new posts are likely to strengthen the firm’s ties to those corporate clients, he said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to develop that relationship,” said Hawkins, who is based in New York. “It’s all about building the business.”

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