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Pittsburgh-based Buchanan Ingersoll has eliminated 14 partners in a move that Chairman William Newlin calls necessary to position the firm for an aggressive growth plan. Sources said Friday that only one of the downsized partners works out of Buchanan Ingersoll’s Philadelphia office. In a statement, Newlin said 2002 was the second-best financial year in the firm’s history, but added that Buchanan Ingersoll nevertheless needed to “make certain adjustments with respect to our shareholders throughout the firm.” “Obviously since we had such a strong year, these changes are not driven by financial performance,” Newlin said. “The constant shifts in the market and different practice areas warranted these changes to continue with the firm’s long-term goal of positioning for the future. Specifically, we have the goal of making one or more significant acquisitions within the next few years. An important part of that program is to position ourselves appropriately for that kind of long-term acquisition strategy. This does not involve a material number of our shareholders.” Buchanan Ingersoll has about 180 partners, roughly 47 percent of which hold non-equity status. Sources familiar with the firm said that nearly all of the 14 affected lawyers are non-equity partners. Therefore, an estimated 15 percent of the firm’s non-equity partners have been eliminated in the move. The move, though, is not a de-equitization, since most of the affected partners did not have equity status. Furthermore, sources indicated that some of the partners could stay with the firm in a non-partner capacity. Many large firms have de-equitized or eliminated partners to improve financial numbers such as profits per equity partner and revenue per lawyer. And with Buchanan Ingersoll announcing late last year that it plans to add a significant number of lawyers via mergers, practice group and lateral acquisitions, the firm clearly wants to make itself more attractive to potential partners. “We’re looking to acquire firms, but you have to put yourself in a position where your own structure is in the best possible shape,” Newlin said. Newlin, who has been the firm’s chairman for the past 22 years, was just appointed to his first-ever three-year term after being elected to one-year terms in the past. Firm management said it sought continuity as it attempts to grow via acquiring a midsize firm or some large practice groups. Legal recruiters have confirmed that Buchanan Ingersoll has been very aggressive in its pursuit of new talent. Newlin has said he sees the firm’s practice strengths being corporate finance, litigation, financial institution representation and health care. In the wake of dozens of departures from the firm’s Princeton, N.J., Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and London offices in 2001, Newlin has said that Buchanan partners have been working quietly over the past year at making a sizable acquisition — a firm with between roughly 50 and 150 lawyers. Philadelphia, along with New York and Washington, is a key target area for substantial growth. The office has grown with the firm’s core competencies – commercial litigation, corporate finance and banking/real estate. The firm has attracted laterals in those areas, such as a five-partner litigation group from Philadelphia-based Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads, an IP litigation group from Philadelphia’s Pepper Hamilton and health care lawyer Tom Tammany. While the office suffered the loss of a 10-attorney labor and employment practice group in 2001 to labor boutique Littler Mendelson, the Philadelphia office is now the largest it has ever been, at roughly 70 lawyers.

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