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Philadelphia’s Drinker Biddle & Reath announced Monday it’s opening up in two West Coast markets by merging with one firm and poaching top talent from another. In San Francisco, 8-year-old product liability boutique Preuss Shanagher Zvoleff & Zimmer is merging into Drinker Biddle to become the East Coast firm’s Bay Area office. That deal is effective Jan. 1. “[Drinker] was looking at the West Coast, and I was looking to expand our client base.” said Charles Preuss, a co-founder of Preuss Shanagher. In Los Angeles, Drinker Biddle lured away a team of lawyers from Haight, Brown & Bonesteel. Veteran medical product liability litigator Thomas Moore is the managing partner of Drinker’s new L.A. office, which officially opened for business on Monday with seven other lawyers from Haight, Brown. Another veteran Haight, Brown litigator, Amor Esteban, has also quit the firm to join Drinker. Based in San Francisco where he had been managing partner of Haight, Brown’s outpost, Esteban and an associate have moved into Preuss Shanagher’s Bush Street offices. The openings bring to eight the number of offices for the 400-lawyer Drinker Biddle & Reath. Preuss said Drinker was looking to move closer to some of its clients, like Agilent Technologies Inc., which has hired Drinker for antitrust work. Drinker, which practices as Drinker Biddle & Shanley in New Jersey because of a 1999 merger there, was ranked the 104th highest-grossing U.S. law firm last year by The American Lawyer. The magazine, which compiles lists annually of top-grossing firms, listed Drinker’s revenues at $142 million for 2000, and its 124 partners recorded profits-per-partner of $360,000. That reflects an upward push by the firm. The prior year, Drinker landed in 137th place on the AmLaw 200 with $97.5 million in revenue and profits-per-partner of $330,000. James Sweet, the chairman of Drinker, Biddle, was en route to Los Angeles and could not be reached for comment by press time. The firm’s national reach was a draw for Moore. “My decision was primarily client-oriented,” said Moore, a longtime commercial litigation defense lawyer who caters to life sciences companies. “I saw Drinker as an obvious fit in terms of being able to offer a geographical reach with multiple offices.” Moore’s group is the second large-scale walkout at Haight, Brown in less than a year. Last April, 13 lawyers, mostly asbestos litigators, quit the firm to join Washington, D.C.-based McKenna & Cuneo. Peter Ezzell, Haight, Brown’s managing partner, said the 90-lawyer firm is retooling its business model to move away from insurance defense work. The firm has taken on more plaintiffs work in commercial litigation and that didn’t mesh well with Moore’s defense practice, Ezzell said. “[Moore] had been diverging from the practice for some amount of time,” Ezzell said. Gerry Holt, a principal at Holt Consulting Services, said the merger and Drinker’s mass hire from Haight, Brown isn’t surprising. “It’s part of an ongoing consolidation trend in the industry,” Holt said.

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