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When the national firm of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart came into the state less than two years ago, it started up as many multistate firms do — by raiding a large New Jersey firm. Four equity partners from Newark, N.J.’s Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione moved to the seventh floor of the Legal Center to open a Newark branch for the Pittsburgh-based firm. At the time, Anthony La Rocco, named to run the office, said the firm’s plans were to grow the New Jersey operation. This month, the office grew by a third, to 21, with the addition of seven lawyers. And this time, the loser is another top New Jersey firm: Pitney, Hardin, Kipp & Szuch, which lost seven environmental lawyers, including senior partner William Hyatt Jr. Hyatt, 63, who has been with the firm his entire career, concentrates on environmental issues relating to product liability, construction and toxic-tort matters. Second on the firm’s letterhead, Hyatt was liaison counsel in the $107 million settlement in 1998 with state and federal environmental agencies to clean up the Kramer Landfill Superfund site in Mantua Township. Joining Hyatt in the move is partner Brian Montag, who recently won a closely watched “environmental justice” case in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Following Hyatt and Montag are Pitney Hardin of counsel Kathy Dutton Helmer and associates Gail Howie Connello, Catherine Trinkle, Alison Saling and Mary Storella. The move marks the third time a Pitney Hardin partner has left this year. In January, J. Michael Nolan, a 22-year veteran of the firm whose father, Joseph, practiced there for decades, also left. Nolan, a litigator who handles white-collar criminal, compliance and regulatory matters and home equity lending issues, moved to Lowenstein Sandler of Roseland, N.J. He says the move was triggered by his outside activities in nonprofits and politics, saying Lowenstein is a better fit for him at this time. Two of counsel at Pitney Hardin followed him to Lowenstein. But Pitney Hardin managing partner Dennis LaFiura says the firm continues to expand itself. In the past few months, it added a handful of lawyers at its New York City office, in the areas of patents, mergers and acquisitions, labor law and intellectual property. That office is now up to 34 lawyers, and firmwide Pitney Hardin is now at about 180. Pitney Hardin still has several top environmental partners, including Peter Herzberg, who heads the department. Most experts believe firms like Pitney Hardin and Lowenstein are large enough and strong enough to withstand the onslaught of the regional and national firms into the New Jersey market. It’s the firms between 75 and 120 lawyers that seem most threatened. These experts say partners at top state firms reach a point where they cannot further expand their service to national clients because of the lack of a bigger platform. “Partners in state firms tend to get pigeonholed,” says one managing partner with a national firm. “They are smart and they are connected to a general counsel, but that general counsel will view that partner only as someone to handle New Jersey work because there is no one else in other parts of the country to support” that attorney. This managing partner, who asked not to be identified, says that partner becomes frustrated because he or she could become the “relationship lawyer” with that general counsel for work all over the country, except for the fact that he or she cannot pull together enough resources. So, the desire to have a national platform, particularly in New Jersey, stocked with Fortune 500 companies that have some presence here, continues to drive partners to the giant firms. Stewart Michaels, who heads Topaz Attorney Search in West Orange, N.J., which specializes in recruiting for the multistate firms, agrees. “General counsel like one-stop shopping. They like to reduce their list of outside firms. And they like to go with a brand name because their board of directors likes that also.” Montag, at 37, is typical of the lawyers who move to national firms. He is a rising star and has made a name for himself. He was serving on the state supreme court’s Civil Practice Committee as a fourth-year associate and has served as president of the Morris County Bar Foundation. In the case before the 3rd Circuit, South Camden Citizens in Action v. N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, 274 F.3d 771 (2001), the court said the plaintiffs could not rely on sec. 1983 to claim that their civil rights were violated by the location of a cement plant in their neighborhood. Montag represented St. Lawrence Cement Co. Inc. THE 700 CLUB Kirkpatrick & Lockhart is nearing the 700-lawyer level, up from 465 in 1999. It followed the September 2000 opening of its Newark branch by opening a Dallas office this past January. The firm is also in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Miami, Boston, New York and Harrisburg, Pa. The firm was ranked 62nd in the country, with revenues of $259 million, in the annual Am Law 100 survey published last month by The American Lawyer, an affiliate of the Law Journal and law.com. That is up from 64th in 2000 and 70th in 1999. Hyatt and Montag were unavailable and could not be reached for comment. Kirkpatrick managing partner Peter Kalis, however, says the firm is constantly looking at new venues and is on the prowl for acquisitions of groups, though he says there are no plans to open another New Jersey office. Kalis and La Rocco, the firm’s administrative partner in Newark, say that before the Hyatt group came aboard, there was no environmental practice in Kirkpatrick’s Newark office. La Rocco notes that when he and former Gibbons Del Deo colleagues John Marmora, Stephen Timoni and Gary Werner opened the new branch, the strategy was to build on their individual practice areas — commercial litigation, real estate, health law and construction law. “We had four practice groups, and now with Bill [Hyatt] and Brian [Montag], two of the top environmental lawyers in the state, we have a fifth practice,” says La Rocco, who says the five-year plan for the office is to be close to 70 lawyers. The firm’s Web site says Kirkpatrick’s regional plans also call for up to 250 lawyers in Manhattan, an office that now has 75 lawyers. “We’ll have 25 by Thanksgiving, and we’ll have the entire floor,” says La Rocco. As for the national platform, La Rocco says Kirkpatrick has 200 large corporate clients “with a New Jersey zip code” — a headquarters, branch, warehouse or property. He and managing partner Kalis cite as an example of national work being spread around the firm the appointment of Kirkpatrick partner Dick Thornburgh earlier this month to be the examiner in the Worldcom bankruptcy proceedings. Thornburgh, a former Pennsylvania governor and U.S. attorney general, works out of the firm’s Washington, D.C., office, yet the bankruptcy is in Manhattan. Thornburgh is using, among many others, Eric Tunis, of counsel in the Newark office, on the Worldcom file. Tunis, a former deputy chief of the fraud division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark, joined Kirkpatrick in March after working as a solo practitioner in West Orange. All the expansion, though, has come at a price, as Kirkpatrick has lagged behind many of its national competitors — as well as the top New Jersey firms — in revenues per lawyer and profits per partner. The numbers, however, continue to improve. Revenue per lawyer, $365,000 in 1998, was up to $430,000 last year. Profits per partner, $335,000 in 1998, hit $455,000 in 2001. That was due in part to a higher leverage ratio. The ratio, just 2.66 for 1999, was up to 3.47 last year. La Rocco says the firm has been expanding, and will continue to do so, without debt. “We finance through partner capital. There is no firm debt,” says La Rocco. Where will these 50 new Kirkpatrick lawyers come from? Gibbons Del Deo, which has already lost at least nine lawyers to its upstairs competitor, and Pitney Hardin, which just lost seven, hope their contributions are over.

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