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In Philadelphia law firms, most of the highly visible trends of the year 2000 were already in evidence in 1999. Associate salaries continued their dramatic ascension. Firms sought out new locales for satellite offices, with London and Northern Virginia most popular this year. And leadership transitions continued to occur. But the story of stories was no doubt the end of Mesirov Gelman Jaffe Cramer & Jamieson, which merged this summer with Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis after talking with almost every large downtown Philadelphia firm. The Mesirov-Schnader union was billed by participants as the largest-ever merger of two Philadelphia law firms. More than 40 Mesirov lawyers — out of about 60 — joined the now 325-attorney firm. The move brought an end to the Mesirov name after 41 years of practice. The key to the deal was Schnader’s willingness to take so many of Mesirov’s attorneys. For Mesirov management, the writing was on the wall last year when the firm unveiled a new strategic plan that focused on six core practice areas and mid-market clients. For various reasons, several top partners, such as Carl Primavera, Howard Grossman, Robert Grossman, Kevin Carey, Edward DeMarco and Steve King, soon left the firm, and suitable replacements were hard to come by. The firms packed their negotiations into a few short weeks in May after Mesirov tested the waters with several larger Center City (downtown) firms: Blank Rome Comisky & McCauley, Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen, Pepper Hamilton and Cozen & O’Connor. While that rare local firm-local firm merger was finalized, another pair of Center City legal powers teased with talk but never sealed the deal. Dechert and Woodcock Washburn Kurtz Mackiewicz & Norris dissolved merger discussions in February after several weeks of talks. Both sides said the associate salary wars and potential client conflicts put an end to the deal that would have added over 70 intellectual property lawyers to Dechert stable of 22 firmwide. The Mesirov merger was another big gulp for Schnader, which in January swallowed 50-attorney Goldstein & Manello of Boston. Not to be outdone, Blank Rome merged with 80-attorney Tenzer Greenblatt of New York City. And last month, Pepper Hamilton acquired 20 attorneys from one of Princeton’s oldest and most prestigious firms, Jamieson Moore Peskin & Spicer. LONDON-BOUND But the two growth sites of choice for Philadelphia firms were London and Northern Virginia. Expansion-happy Duane Morris & Heckscher got the ball rolling in June, opening the doors of a London office with the addition of six British solicitors from Geisler & Laws. Later that month, Dechert merged with 140-attorney Titmuss Sainer. And earlier this month, Reed Smith announced it would be joining forces with London-based Warner Cranston, which has 60 solicitors in two UK locations. Three firms also moved into technology-rich Northern Virginia. Morgan Lewis & Bockius announced plans in November to open a site there this spring after working to build the lawyer count to more than 30. That came only a few weeks after Pepper Hamilton opened an office there. And Pepper Hamilton shares an office building with Buchanan Ingersoll, which moved in this summer. While Woodcock wasn’t able to reach an agreement with Dechert, it did agree with prized client Microsoft when it asked the firm to open up a Seattle office this spring. Other office openings include Duane Morris in Atlanta and West Chester County, N.Y.; Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young in Washington, D.C.; Margolis Edelstein in Harrisburg; White & Williams in Pittsburgh; and Marshall Dennehey Coleman Warner & Goggin in Tampa, Fla. The fascination with intellectual property boutiques and practice groups continued with Reed Smith announcing that it had gobbled up McAulay Nissen Goldberg & Kiel. The New York-based 11-attorney IP boutique added to the firm’s already 17-attorney Manhattan office. Earlier in the year, Reed Smith and Klett Rooney Lieber & Schorling split the pickings in Duane Morris’ Wilmington, Del., office, with the 11 attorneys there joining one or the other firm. Duane Morris has since re-opened a Delaware site with new lawyers. Aside from Mesirov, one other local firm called it quits this year. The partners at defense litigation boutique Gallagher Reilly Lachat & Egbert decided to go their separate ways. SALARIES GOING UP AND UP The other area of movement this year was in associate salaries. Spurred by escalating starting wages in New York and California firms, Center City firms got into the act in February and set off a domino effect that, when the smoke cleared, had just about every large firm in the area paying its first-year associates six-figure salaries. In the last 18 months alone, the average big-firm salary has gone from about $75,000 to $100,000 or $105,000. Morgan Lewis got the ball rolling in March, announcing it was raising its salaries to $100,000. Other firms followed, with Pepper Hamilton, Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, Cozen & O’Connor, Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen, Reed Smith, Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin, Schnader Harrison, Buchanan Ingersoll, Dilworth Paxson, Saul Ewing, Duane Morris and Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads all matching that number. But when Dechert announced that it would be going to $105,000, Morgan matched that figure and was joined in doing so by Drinker Biddle & Reath and Blank Rome. In addition, each firm unveiled bonus packages and raised salaries across the board for associates. Woodcock Washburn and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, both of which deal almost solely with IP work in this market, raised their salaries to $115,000. Not every big firm joined the fray. Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young bumped its salaries to $92,000, while Fox Rothschild O’Brien & Frankel decided to stay at $85,000 for the time being, and White & Williams raised its number to $80,000. Another recruitment ploy firms coupled with the salary raises was business casual dress codes. Conservative Morgan Lewis tacked that item onto its original salary bump and, true to form, other firms began to follow the lead. CHANGES AT THE TOP Management changes also abound this year. James Sweet took over for Morgan “Dick” Jones as chairman of Drinker Biddle while Brian Peters assumed the managing partner reins at Post & Schell formerly held by William Sutton and Kenwyn Dougherty. Albert G. Bixler replaced Nancy Baron-Baer as managing partner of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellot’s Philadelphia office, and Howard Meyers assumed the same post at Morgan Lewis, replacing the retiring Alan Reed. Robert Nicholas will replace Michael Browne in Reed Smith’s version of that position early next year. Tad Decker, only seven months after joining the firm, replaced Patrick O’Connor as Cozen & O’Connor’s managing partner, allowing O’Connor to assume more of a role in practice development and expansion. Firm patriarch Stephen Cozen also announced plans to step down as chairman in 2003, setting the stage for the firm’s first-ever transition of power. At Fox Rothschild, Louis Fryman saw his position change from managing partner to the newly created chairman. That was set off after Abraham Reich was named managing partner of the firm’s Philadelphia office, also a new position. SHORTER IS SNAPPIER A big trend at local law firms turned out to be the shortening of names, whether it be for official or branding purposes. While firms have been shortening or branding their names for quite some time, it become even more popular in 2000. Dechert Price & Rhoads, after the London merger, decided to shorten its name to simply Dechert. Earlier this fall, Saul Ewing Remick & Saul officially changed its name to Saul Ewing, and Reed Smith Shaw & McClay became to Reed Smith. Duane Morris has chosen the path selected by Morgan Lewis & Bockius, which brands itself as Morgan Lewis. Duane Morris will drop the Heckscher in its promotional materials. Morgan Lewis said it kept the Bockius name out of respect to longtime managing partner Morris Bockius.

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