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After two months of holding its partnership ranks intact, San Francisco-based Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison is losing a prominent litigator. Donald Brown, a 25-year Brobeck veteran and head of the firm’s insurance coverage practice group, submitted his resignation Jan. 23. Brown declined to say where he would be going, adding that it was “confidential” for the time being. “This other place offered me an opportunity in my field which doesn’t come along often,” Brown said. He said he would remain at Brobeck “through the transition” and perhaps into February. Since Brobeck entered merger discussions with Philadelphia’s Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, the firm has sought to stem a tide of departures from the firm. After losing at least 60 partners, Brobeck management took steps in November to encourage partners to stick around beyond the end of 2002. At the time, industry sources said Brobeck might require partners to pay back their pro rata share of bank debt upon their departure. As it turned out, last week Brobeck revealed that partners were paying $26 million of their personal earnings to pay off part of the firm’s debt to Citibank. Brown is the first major defection from the firm in the past month. Margo Bradish, a real estate partner in Brobeck’s East Palo Alto, Calif., office, left at the end of December. Former partners and other sources close to the firm said they expect additional partners to leave soon. If big-name partners leave, that could undermine a deal with Morgan Lewis, which sources said would want some assurance that Brobeck rainmakers would stick with a merged entity. Brown said he would not be taking any significant matters with him from Brobeck. Paul Glad, managing partner of Chicago-based Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal’s San Francisco office, who has litigated against Brown in several major cases, said his departure from Brobeck is significant. “He is a first-rate lawyer with the ability to manage complex cases and excellent advocacy skills,” Glad said. Brown was chief trial counsel for ExxonMobil in its suit against more than 300 insurers over coverage for environmental cleanup liabilities at more than 5,000 sites. He was also lead counsel for Imperial Oil Limited in a case seeking coverage for cleanup liabilities associated with hundreds of sites throughout Canada. His other clients have included Tosco Corp., Shell Oil Co., North American Philips Corp. and Western MacArthur Co. Brown joined Brobeck after graduating from Yale Law School in 1978.

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