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San Francisco-based Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison expelled its former Chairman Tower Snow Jr. from the partnership Friday in retribution for his attempt to lure several partners with him in a move to Clifford Chance. The decision — acknowledged by Brobeck partners as an unprecedented one — came a day after Clifford Chance announced the deal with Snow and the other partners had fallen through and amid speculation that Snow was shopping himself and his colleagues to another firm. While Snow’s departure has been expected for some time, the decision was a stunning one nonetheless. Expelling partners is notoriously difficult, and at Brobeck, it requires written consent from more than 60 percent of the partnership. Brobeck Chairman Richard Odom acknowledged in a prepared statement that the move was “an extraordinary step for the firm to take and it is unfortunate that events progressed to this point. “The policy committee and the partners of the firm believe that this is in the best interests of the firm,” Odom said. Snow, who has been traveling, could not be reached for comment. Firmwide managing partner Richard Parker said the firm has been attempting to contact Snow to speak with him about the decision, but phone and e-mail messages have not been returned. Parker described the ouster as a necessary step to prevent Snow from sowing more internal discord. “We’ve concluded, based on the information available to us, that he endeavored to lead a raid of our firm and to pull a significant number of partners out of the firm,” Parker said. “That’s not a behavior that the firm is prepared to tolerate.” Parker said none of the other partners said to have been involved in the possible deal with Clifford Chance had left the firm, “and I hope they don’t.” The decision to oust Snow apparently did not take very long. Parker said the firm’s policy committee met early Friday morning, made its decision and then took it to the operations committee for approval. By the end of the day, the vote by the full partnership had been taken, and Snow was out. “This was not a close call of the partnership,” Parker said. John Larson, a partner who helmed the firm from 1988 to 1996, said he voted to expel Snow when he learned that he “was out brokering a number of lawyers to various law firms and that’s not consistent with the fiduciary duties of a partner. “I’m not aware of any circumstance in recent years where anyone — much less the former chairman of the firm — has gone to a number of firms telling them that he could recruit and deliver 50 or 100 lawyers,” Larson said. The firm’s internal political drama has been playing out very publicly in recent days, giving a glimpse into Brobeck’s “bare-knuckles culture,” said legal consultant Peter Zeughauser of Newport Beach, Calif.’s ClientFocus. He said when a firm is going to expel a partner it typically has a member of the leadership offer the partner a chance to resign and save face. “This is obviously a highly charged situation, a reprisal for the Clifford Chance deal.” But Zeughauser said this will not likely affect Snow’s marketability. “This reflects more on Brobeck’s culture. People already know who Tower is,” he said. “It won’t change how people think of him.” Snow came to Brobeck in 1995 and was chairman of the firm from 1998 until November of last year, when he resigned amid controversy over his leadership style. He was replaced by L.A.’s Odom, a longtime partner touted as a consensus builder. Ever since that event, Snow has been thought to be looking to jump to another firm or high-profile job. He even applied for dean of the University of Oregon law school. Before the announcement late Friday, the legal community was buzzing with rumors and theories about where Snow would go. San Francisco Bay Area recruiters, managing partners and other lawyers said they would be surprised if a deal to jump to another firm wasn’t in the works or if a portion of the group might be considering opening their own shop. Some, however, said it might be tougher to engineer such a mass exodus because of the very public failure of the pact with Clifford Chance. Yet a source familiar with the negotiations between Clifford Chance and the Brobeck team said “other firms are very interested in those people.” He noted that the deal involved more than 35 partners from four offices and several different practices. “It’s tough to find securities and IP litigators,” he said. “Those guys don’t come a dime a dozen.” But it’s clear that not everyone is jumping at the chance to hire Snow and his group. A partner at a large Los Angeles firm who is well versed in law firm economics suggested that a second-tier New York player looking to break into Northern California might be a good fit. Nevertheless, he ruled out the top California and New York firms like Latham & Watkins, Morrison & Foerster and Shearman & Sterling. “Certainly Latham won’t take that group,” he said. “The group is probably not as profitable as Latham and wouldn’t add anything Latham doesn’t already have.” The partner suggested that it would be a good idea for Snow to open his own firm. “What does Tower need with big firm politics anymore? He could put his own name on the door with the Mucks [Kevin and Susan] and [Michael] Torpey and that would be a formidable group,” he said. Kevin Muck, Susan Muck and Torpey were among the 10 Brobeck securities litigation partners in discussions with Clifford Chance. One threshold Snow and his fellow partners are unlikely to cross is at Shearman & Sterling, the New York-based firm where Snow was a lawyer for six years before going to Brobeck in 1995. Shearman on Friday nixed any notion that it might be looking at the group. “There are many, many fine lawyers and partners at Brobeck, but we’re not in discussions with Tower or any group there,” said John Wilson, managing partner of Shearman’s San Francisco office. “We certainly wish them well.” Others in the industry speculated that another international firm might become a suitor in Clifford Chance’s stead. But recruiter Joe Macrae, of Belmont, Calif.-based M Legal Consulting Inc., said other “Magic Circle” United Kingdom firms were further behind Clifford Chance in their development in the United States. “My understanding is that Freshfields and Allen & Overy are unlikely to look at doing anything on the West Coast now,” said Macrae, who was previously head of a U.K. recruiting outfit. “Their efforts are focused on staffing up New York, and in Freshfields’ case, Washington, D.C.” He said Linklaters was in the same situation and that Slaughter and May had a strategy of working with U.S. firms rather than setting up shop to compete. Officials at Clifford Chance did not return calls Friday, but the source familiar with the negotiations said the collapse may have been due to “the size of the deal and the composition. I think it was a tough sell to the global partners as to why they would want U.S. litigation partners.” Shearman’s Wilson said such acquisitions involving large numbers are complicated and take a long time. This deal also involved cultural and geographical differences, he said, plus Clifford “is still digesting its merger with Rogers & Wells and the big German firm [Punder, Volhard, Weber & Axster]. “Those kind of things are complicated and time consuming and can fail for any one of a hundred reasons,” Wilson said. “I’m surprised when they succeed.” Associate Editor Elizabeth Kim, Senior Writer Renee Deger, News Editor Candice McFarland and Assistant Managing Editor David Brown contributed to this story.

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