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Several partners at San Jose, Calif.-based Skjerven Morrill are negotiating a move to San Francisco-based Pillsbury Winthrop as the future of the intellectual property boutique appears increasingly uncertain. Skjerven, with approximately 70 attorneys, has been rumored to be in merger talks with several firms, including Pillsbury Winthrop, but a number of former partners say the more likely scenario now involves individual Skjerven groups splitting off from the firm. A source close to Skjerven said Pillsbury was only talking to one group of Skjerven attorneys. “Skjerven is going to dissolve too,” he said. “No one will take the whole firm lock, stock and barrel.” Edward Anderson, Skjerven’s chairman, and David Hopmann, the firm’s managing partner, did not return calls for comment. Pillsbury and Skjerven have a long history together. In 1999 and 2000, more than a half-dozen Pillsbury partners, including Hopmann, defected to Skjerven to launch the firm’s San Francisco office. Now it seems the tide is flowing in the other direction. Pillsbury Chair Mary Cranston confirmed that the firm is talking with several partners from Skjerven but said there are no merger discussions under way. “A number of the Skjerven partners are former Pillsbury partners, and we have a client base in common,” said Cranston. “Skjerven is a very excellent tech firm, so it’s a very good practice fit with ours.” Cranston said it was premature to talk about the number of partners involved in a possible move. The past two years have been especially challenging for Skjerven. The firm laid off 29 associates and 27 staff members in two layoffs at the end of 2001 and beginning of 2002. In April, name partner Alan MacPherson, one of the firm’s biggest rainmakers, left with two other partners to found MacPherson Kwok & Chen. The following week, Skjerven shuttered its Austin, Texas, and Newport Beach, Calif., offices, leaving it with offices in San Jose and San Francisco. It’s unclear whether the firm has worked out an arrangement with its landlords to get out of the office leases in the old locations. One former Skjerven partner said he had heard the firm was planning to make an announcement in the next several weeks regarding its future.

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