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The leader of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison’s Northern California technology group is exiting the firm to launch his own intellectual property consulting business in Berkeley, Calif. Joseph Siino, at Brobeck since 1997, joins a growing list of partners who’ve left the firm in the past four months, and his departure comes in the wake of associate and staff layoffs that have hit the firm’s business and technology group particularly hard. Siino also leaves as the San Francisco Bay Area legal community buzzes about other possible high-level defections from the firm — with speculation centering on the future of Tower Snow Jr., Brobeck’s former chairman. A few industry insiders said they had heard Snow was about to jump to Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells. Siino, based in the firm’s East Palo Alto, Calif., office, had until recently headed the firm’s business and technology group in San Francisco. He built a technology transaction practice there, but moved to East Palo Alto earlier this year. He continued to serve as the head of the technology group in Northern California, but gave up his post as San Francisco business and technology team leader. For his part, Siino said his decision to leave Brobeck had nothing to do with troubled economic times but came about because of his interest in the growing IP market. “Companies are increasingly moving in the direction of valuing their IP and constructing business models based around exploiting IP directly,” Siino said. As a result there is a need for “integrated consulting work where sophisticated IP strategies are provided in collaboration with deep technology expertise and business expertise.” But the move will likely add grist to the rumor mill. The firm has struggled to cope with the economic downturn by weeding its associate ranks, and the business and technology group has been hit hardest. Last fall 82 attorneys in the group took up Brobeck’s offer of severance pay to leave the firm, and in February the firm laid off 54 associates — 90 percent came from the B&T group. Snow, while chairman, adamantly — and very publicly — refused to do layoffs, even as the firm’s profits per partner slid precipitously. With a number of partners disagreeing with his management style, Snow decided he would not seek a third term as chairman and stepped down from the post in November. The partnership elected longtime L.A. partner Richard Odom as chairman and named San Diego’s Richard Parker firmwide managing partner. Snow has made no secret of the fact that he has considered positions outside the firm since stepping down — even applying for a job as dean of the University of Oregon School of Law. The latest speculation about a possible Snow move to Clifford Chance could not be immediately confirmed. Snow was on vacation last week and could not be reached for comment. Other attorneys at Brobeck either declined to comment or said they had heard a variety of rumors they couldn’t verify. Clifford Chance has more than 3,000 lawyers worldwide — but only two offices in the United States: one in New York and the other in Washington, D.C. The firm was formed three years ago through the three-way merger of London’s Clifford Chance, New York’s Rogers & Wells and Germany’s Punder, Volhard, Weber & Axster. Parker, the firmwide managing partner, said he had not heard the rumors about Snow departing. “I hope they’re not true,” he said. “We’ve been trying to do everything we could to encourage him to stay. He’s done a lot of good things for us over the years, and we’d be disappointed if he decided he didn’t want to be here anymore.” Even if Snow does stay, the firm has seen several partners leave recently. John Missing, who launched Brobeck’s Washington, D.C., office, joined the D.C. office of New York’s Debevoise & Plimpton in December. The following month, Lawrence Gornick jumped to the San Francisco office of Los Angeles’ Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, and products liability litigators William Levin and Gary Fergus opened their own firms. Last week Greg Williams, a partner in Brobeck’s Irvine, Calif., office, jumped to Allen Matkins Leck Gamble & Mallory. Siino said he couldn’t yet discuss the specific work he would be handling at his new business or whether he would be hiring other consultants. He said the Siino Law & Technology Group would be providing slightly different services than Brobeck offers. And he said he expected there would be “a fair amount of collaboration” with Brobeck in the future.

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