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Drinker Biddle & Reath has become the second large Philadelphia-based firm in the past week to announce plans to enter the Wilmington, Del., legal market. But unlike Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, which opened a Wilmington office last week, Drinker Biddle will not be looking at local lawyers to help get the firm started there. Shortly after Jan. 1, Drinker Biddle will be opening an office in the Wilmington Trust Building, at 1100 Market St. The firm will dispatch veteran bankruptcy partner Warren Pratt, as well as two associates from the Philadelphia office. Finance and restructuring department co-chairman Andrew Kassner also will be spending a lot of time in the Wilmington office. Kassner played a major role in finding the right opportunity for the firm to enter the market. “Now is the time to do it,” Drinker Biddle chairman James Sweet said. “Bankruptcy is still really hot. Andy has a great practice, and he already spends a lot of time in Wilmington.” Pratt took the Delaware bar examination in February 2001, is finishing up his preceptor obligations and will be stationed in Wilmington full time. Kassner, who also holds the title of assistant to the chairman — the No. 2 firm manager at 400-attorney Drinker Biddle — has not decided whether to sit for the Delaware bar and will maintain his Philadelphia office. Sweet said the firm had not yet decided which associates would make the move. Sweet and Kassner said the firm had searched for the past three years for the right opportunity in Wilmington, talking to firms, practice groups and individuals in Delaware. In the meantime, the firm had Pratt take the Delaware bar and decided to start the office without having Delaware lawyers on site. The firm signed a five-year lease, with options for renewals and expansion, in the Wilmington Trust Building. Kassner said the firm is fitting the office to hold 14 lawyers. Drinker Biddle plans to start out with four to six lawyers in the first year and hopes to add a litigation presence by either moving attorneys down from Philadelphia or acquiring Delaware-based laterals. Drinker Biddle has a more established bankruptcy practice in Philadelphia than Ballard Spahr, leaning toward representing creditors in high-profile Chapter 11′s involving Montgomery Ward, Bradlee’s, Allegheny Health System. “Wilmington is one of the five practice centers for bankruptcy, along with California, New York, Texas and Chicago,” Kassner said. “So if you really want to have a national presence in bankruptcy, you should be in Wilmington. And because of its close proximity to our offices in Berwyn, Philadelphia, Washington, Princeton and Florham Park, we think we can staff it with our own resources. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to add people from Delaware. We still are talking with people there. But we won’t do it unless it’s the right people with the right cultural fit.” Ballard Spahr ended a decade-long search for a Wilmington office last week when it announced the lateral hiring of Reed Smith bankruptcy partner Tobey Daluz to head its new office right off Rodney Square at 919 Market St. And Ballard Spahr has clear Wilmington expansion plans for 2003. Daluz is now in temporary quarters at 919 Market St., with a negotiated option to move in to permanent digs that could house up to 10 lawyers within the next year. Arthur Makadon, Ballard Spahr’s chairman, said that in addition to bankruptcy practitioners, the firm would like to add lawyers in litigation, corporate and real estate law. The firm is not inclined to move any of its Philadelphia lawyers to Delaware and will instead look for seasoned Wilmington lawyers to put the firm on the map in this reputedly provincial legal market. As for Drinker Biddle, the firm will continue to look for indigenous Delaware lawyers but only in the areas of bankruptcy and litigation, though Sweet would not rule out a corporate presence when the economy turns around. The 42-year-old Kassner, a 1983 graduate of New York Law School, is the youngest of the firm’s nine-member management body and is seen as one of the top creditors’ bankruptcy lawyers in Philadelphia. He began practicing bankruptcy and creditors’ rights law at Arutt Nachamie Benjamin & Kirschner in New York. He soon moved to Philadelphia and spent a few years as an associate at Fox Rothschild O’Brien & Frankel before joining Drinker Biddle in 1996. Pratt, a 1980 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley Law School, had a litigation practice in San Francisco until 1983, when he joined Drinker Biddle. The arrival of Ballard Spahr and Drinker Biddle in Wilmington will leave only four large Philadelphia-based firms — Morgan Lewis & Bockius, Dechert, Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis and Post & Schell — without a Wilmington office. In all, 16 of the 20 largest Philadelphia firms — and 35 Philadelphia firms total — have Delaware offices. According to firm Web sites, Saul Ewing has the largest Wilmington office among Philadelphia-based firms, with 20 lawyers, followed by Blank Rome Comisky & McCauley at 16; and Duane Morris, Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin and Pepper Hamilton at 13. Pittsburgh-based Klett Rooney Lieber & Schorling has 17 lawyers, and Reed Smith has 11. Among other Philadelphia firms, White & Williams has nine lawyers, Fox Rothschild, has seven, Cozen O’Connor has six, and Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads, Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young and Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen have four apiece.

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