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Proskauer Rose is grabbing three attorneys from Mayer Brown to launch its new office in Chicago, opening the doors with a group of litigators in the insurance arena. The law firm’s Chicago hires will include Mayer Brown partners Steven R. Gilford, Marc E. Rosenthal, and Paul L. Langer, according to sources familiar with the firm’s plan. All of the lawyers have focused their work on representing corporate policyholder clients as opposed to insurance companies. “This is a marquee group and a group that at least until recently Mayer Brown did not want to depart,” said Mark Jungers, a recruiter for Major Lindsey & Africa in Chicago who has worked with Proskauer in seeking attorneys, though he didn’t work with the Mayer Brown lawyers. Many firms have been opting over the past couple years to focus on representation of insurance companies instead of the companies that they insure to avoid conflicts of interest that can arise when a policyholder sues its insurer over coverage issues. The policyholder work has been viewed by some firms as less lucrative than the insurance company work. John S. Vishneski, also formerly a Mayer Brown partner for policyholders, left the firm last year to join Reed Smith in Chicago. Hiring the trio builds on the firm’s addition this week in New York of John Edward Failla, an insurance coverage litigator who has principally worked with policyholders. Proskauer, founded in New York, has been seeking a foothold in the Chicago market since last year, following in the footsteps of other national firms that have set up an outpost in the Midwest’s largest city in recent years. The firm targeted attorneys in a variety practice areas, including private equity, real estate, finance and white-collar defense. Ropes and Gray, historically a Boston-based firm, also opened an office in the city this year, taking another group of lawyers from Mayer Brown. That firm also had an interest in stocking the Chicago office with attorneys who specialize in finance, particularly private equity. The firm hired former Mayer Brown partner James Lidbury to lead the office and Deborah A. Monson and Jonathan M. Grandon as partners. Part of the allure for firms interested in building their private equity practices in the city is the presence of Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis, which has long been a dominant player in the area with experienced lawyers that may be targets for firms looking to poach talent. Ropes & Gray and Proskauer ranked among the top ten law firms in terms of the value of private equity transactions they worked on in fiscal year 2006, according to The Mergermarket Group. Ropes & Gray was in fourth place with $74.8 billion in deals and Proskauer at tenth with $31.9 billion. While Kirkland was ranked 25th in terms of the total value of transactions, it ranked second behind Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in terms of the number of deals with 22. In addition to the new Chicago office, Proskauer has about 750 attorneys in ten offices, including Boston, London, Boca Raton and Sao Paulo.

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