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CHICAGO — Sidley Austin has lured private equity attorney S. Michael Peck and five of his attorney colleagues away from Schiff Hardin, a smaller Chicago-based law firm. Peck, 60, said that he and the five other attorneys, including Jeffrey Smith, Dirk Andringa, Roger Wilen, Alexis Cooper and Nancy Kasko, may start at Sidley as soon as April 1. “We have terrible, mixed emotions about this,” Peck said. The main reason for leaving was “simply the breadth of the platform” at Sidley. Sidley, which was founded in Chicago and now has 16 offices worldwide, came looking for the private equity attorneys at a time when the city’s demand for such talent has risen on the growth of private equity firms in the city and the competition for such talent from incoming law firms, such as Boston-based Ropes & Gray, has climbed. Ropes & Gray, which has a strong suit in the area, just opened an office in Chicago this year. Proskauer Rose has also been considering the city for an outpost, partly based on an interest in private equity. The firms are jockeying to provide services to major Chicago private equity firms that include Madison Dearborn Partners, GTCR Golder Rauner LLC, Frontenac LLC, and Code Hennessy & Simmons LLC and also hedge fund firms such as Citadel Investment Group LLC. Kirkland & Ellis, founded in Chicago, has long dominated the city’s private equity scene and has a presence in the field nationally with a large contingent of lawyers practicing in the area, providing solid poaching grounds for other firms. Kirkland itself snatched attorney Jon Ballis, who has worked with Frontenac and Madison Dearborn, from Sidley in 2005. Peck and the team of private equity attorneys moved to Schiff Hardin nearly five years ago after their prior firm, Altheimer & Gray, shut down in 2003. “We had a great run with him,” said David Milberg, a spokesman for Schiff Hardin, who said there were no hard feelings about the exits and noted that the firm still has a practice group of 120 corporate lawyers.

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