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Continuing to slim down, San Francisco’s Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison has axed office administrators in Austin, Texas, and Irvine, Calif.; a third administrator in the Dallas office has voluntarily resigned. The Jan. 3 departures come as the firm continues merger discussions with Philadelphia’s 1,000-lawyer Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. More cuts from the firm’s staff of 600 are possible, say several sources close to the firm, and another wave of partner defections may be in the offing in the next several weeks. As one of the sources that spoke on condition of anonymity put it, Brobeck is “working vigorously on restructuring an agreement with banks.” The agreement, the source said, is expected to be finalized by the end of the week, and it could clear up some of the financial obligations that partners have with the firm. Until the agreement is inked, the source said, “It’s probably going to be difficult for most people to leave.” The firm’s vigorous expansion during the technology boom has left it with a significant debt load and a glut of unused office space. Reducing such overhead is likely a key to a smooth merger with Morgan Lewis or any other firm. Brobeck, however, isn’t talking about the merger, its overhead issues — or much of anything else, for that matter. Firm spokesman John Pachtner, when asked about further layoffs and partner departures, said Brobeck wouldn’t be revealing specifics. “With respect to departures or layoffs — whether staff, associates or partners — we consider those personnel matters and we aren’t going to be announcing them,” he said. Pachtner did confirm that the trio of administrators had left, and said that as Brobeck assessed work in those offices, “we determined we didn’t need high-level people in those positions.” Last month, Brobeck laid off several staffers from its San Francisco office, primarily from its information technology department. At the time, Pachtner said that “fewer than 20″ employees were laid off. He refused to comment on whether more staffers had been cut since then. Peter Zeughauser, a legal consultant with Newport Beach, Calif.-based Zeughauser Group, said the reduction in office administrative positions may reflect Brobeck’s desire to consolidate. “They’re still right-sizing,” he said. “They went through a big metamorphosis.” Brobeck had more than 900 lawyers in September 2000 and now has 493. The firm lost about 60 partners last year, but in November instituted measures to stem the tide by making it financially difficult for partners to resign. At least one partner has left, however. Real estate partner Margo Bradish, who joined Brobeck in 1993 after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, left the firm on Dec. 31 after being a partner there for two years. Bradish could not be reached for comment. Pachtner said she left the firm “to spend more time with her family.” In addition to Bradish, Brobeck senior counsel Sean Prosser jumped to the San Diego office of Fish & Richardson on Dec. 31. A securities litigator, Prosser joined Brobeck as an associate in 1997 and worked in the firm’s San Diego office.

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