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Four partners have left San Francisco-based Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison in the last few weeks, two to start their own practices and two to join other firms. Products liability litigators William Levin and Gary Fergus are putting out their own shingle in San Francisco to handle plaintiff work. Lawrence Gornick, a 13-year veteran in Brobeck’s complex litigation department, jumped to the San Francisco office of Los Angeles’ Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker on Jan. 2. And 17-year veteran John Missing, who launched Brobeck’s Washington, D.C., office three years ago, left Brobeck at the end of December to join New York’s Debevoise & Plimpton. The departures came as Brobeck announced a plunge in profits for 2001. The firm’s profits per partner declined from $1.17 million to $660,000, while gross revenue fell from $476 million in 2000 to $447 million. But the four partners said Brobeck’s economics were not the reason for their departures. Levin, who was still in his office at Brobeck Friday, said he had thought about going out on his own for some time and decided to take the plunge when a series of cases were referred to him that were outside Brobeck’s purview. “I’ve been here [at Brobeck] a long time and had to decide if I wanted to do this the rest of my professional career or move in another direction,” Levin said. Levin, who joined Brobeck in 1985, is switching to the plaintiff side of product liability disputes. His first clients are individuals suing Bayer Corp. over adverse reactions to the cholesterol drug Baycol. Fergus, who has spent his 21-year career at Brobeck, also decided that he wanted to do more plaintiff work. He left Brobeck at the end of December, and put out his shingle six floors up from his old office at Brobeck’s San Francisco headquarters. Gornick said his move to Paul Hastings was compelled by dissatisfaction over Brobeck’s technology focus. “I started thinking about leaving Brobeck in the spring of 2001,” Gornick said. “At that time Brobeck was clearly on a course to become more and more focused on the technology sector of the economy.” And securities litigator Missing said his departure was “much more about Debevoise than Brobeck,” adding that Debevoise had a strong securities practice and offered “too good an opportunity to pass up.” Gornick voiced support for Brobeck’s new chairman, Richard Odom, who succeeded Tower Snow Jr. as chairman in November: “There were two factors that made it harder for me to leave: Dick Odom becoming chairman and the fact the firm was going to restructure and rebuild.”

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