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The partners of San Francisco-based McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen will be asked to give executive management the green light to start talking merger terms with East Coast giant Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe. The issue is at the top of the agenda of the firm’s annual meeting, which will be held this weekend at Pebble Beach, Calif., according to firm partners who asked not to be named. Families won’t accompany partners, who reportedly will bunk together in shared rooms. The move seems to signal that the firm’s executive management — which is rumored to have been looking for a merger partner for more than a year — has focused its selection process specifically on Piper Marbury. The 875-lawyer firm has the preponderance of its lawyers in Washington, D.C., Chicago and New York. “This is by no means a done deal,” said one partner, who said that while many partners have “serious questions” and “some ambivalence,” it is expected that management will be given the go-ahead to proceed with merger planning. The deal is being brokered by Brad Hildebrandt of Hildebrandt International. He would not comment. The firm’s executive management did not return phone calls, and most partners bristled at being asked to discuss the matter at a time they considered premature. McCutchen, known as a West Coast firm and numbering 320 lawyers, has been seeking a merger that would give it an East Coast presence. Saying they didn’t want to be part of a large, national, merged law firm, partners Lynn Pasahow and J. David Hadden left McCutchen for Palo Alto, Calif.-based Fenwick & West earlier this month. Piper Marbury has been trying to get into the West Coast market, and recently hired five Los Angeles lawyers from the now-defunct Troop Steuber Pasich Reddick & Tobey. It trumpets on its Web site that the Troop Steuber gain “represents its first foray into California,” but that “a larger presence is on the drawing board.” McCutchen partners said Piper Marbury was settled on after close talks with two other firms. A source close to the merger said the other two firms were “not New York-based.” The Chicago firm of Mayer, Brown & Platt is reported to have been actively seeking a West Coast merger recently.

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