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When Los Angeles-based Troop Steuber Pasich Reddick & Tobey started shopping for a merger mate last summer, it quickly became clear that not every lawyer would land in the same place. But nobody foresaw that Troop, once a powerful entertainment firm that closed for business on January 1, would splinter into as many pieces as it has. The dust had barely settled on the firm’s two announced mergers before frustrated lawyers scrambled to cut last-minute deals for themselves. And the splintering may not be over yet. The demise began in mid- December, when Dallas’s Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld announced that its L.A. office would scoop up 54 of Troop’s 120 lawyers, including most of the firm’s corporate, emerging growth, and labor and employment practices. Conflicts forced Troop’s 28-lawyer insurance coverage practice to pursue a separate deal, and during that same week Washington, D.C.’s Howrey Simon Arnold & White announced that its L.A. office would snag that group. That still stranded about 30 Troop lawyers who didn’t sign on or weren’t made offers in either deal. Two bankruptcy lawyers joined a prominent L.A. boutique; one tax partner signed on with the local branch of Chicago’s Kirkland & Ellis. In January, Troop litigator Neil O’Hanlon joined the L.A. office of New York’s Squadron, Ellenoff, Plesent & Sheinfeld. More than a dozen others spent the holiday season looking for jobs. Not everybody is happy about the Akin deal, especially some associates who are peeved that Akin’s pay structure, unlike Troop’s, withholds a portion of base compensation until the end of the year and pays it out based on billable hours. In addition, several sources say that Troop’s labor and employment group, led by partner Anthony Oncidi, is rumored to be entertaining offers from other firms. Oncidi and his partners concede that they’ve been “solicited” but say that they are waiting to see if they can work out their concerns about how their group will integrate with Akin. Some skeptical observers question what Akin got out of the acquisition. Troop was founded in 1975, and many of the heavy hitters who built its reputation on the entertainment side have been long gone. Its founders include Louis Meisinger, who left in 1998 to become general counsel of The Walt Disney Company, and Robert Wynne, who went to Sony Pictures Entertainment in 1995. And with profitability lagging and partners fighting over compensation, a slew of disheartened entertainment litigators bolted last July to other firms. Akin also failed to acquire a big chunk of Troop’s entertainment production practice. The firm did extend offers to almost all of that group’s 12 lawyers, but not to partner Robert Darwell, its head. After learning that their boss was cut out of the deal, several lawyers rejected the Akin offer and five went with him to Katten Muchin Zavis in January. Quips Darwell: “We kept our core group of people … and the clients.” Akin chairman R. Bruce McLean explains that Akin wanted to beef up its “core strengths,” like corporate and labor and employment, and did not aim to build a stand-alone entertainment industry production practice, which is Darwell’s specialty. While it is true that production work does not bring in as much revenue or prestige as corporate M&A work, many in the entertainment community are baffled by what they see as Akin’s snub. Darwell, who brought in more than $3 million in business last year, has a loyal client following, including USA Films, Playboy Enterprises, Inc., and Disney. McLean also notes that Akin was focusing on Troop’s technology and emerging growth practice to augment the firm’s efforts to open in the Bay Area. “Los Angeles is sort of a stepping stone,” he says. Akin plans to grow the now-130-lawyer L.A. office to about 200 lawyers in the next four or five years. Troop’s implosion is a sad story for former partners like Darwell who never wanted to leave. “It was a phenomenal place to work,” he says. “I was all about Troop.”

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