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A San Francisco lawyer is accusing Baker & McKenzie of stealing his client after the megafirm agreed to handle a small task for him in Taiwan. Douglas Akay, of the two-attorney Akay & Associates, says that he filed a suit for shareholders in a noodle restaurant chain in 2002. Due to the challenge of serving foreign parties, Chicago-based Baker & McKenzie was enlisted to serve several of the defendants in Taiwan, as well as a few in the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda, according to a complaint Akay filed Monday in San Francisco Superior Court. The problem for Akay came, according to his allegations, when the bigger firm bad-mouthed him and seduced his clients away — and earned more than $1 million in fees from the business. He’s named Baker & McKenzie as well as two partners in the firm’s San Francisco office, Christopher Van Gundy and Bruce Jackson, as defendants. Reached Tuesday afternoon, Van Gundy said it was the first he’d heard of the suit and that he was unable to comment on short notice. Jackson could not be reached for comment, nor could Peter Engstrom, managing partner of the San Francisco office. Akay claims that Van Gundy and Jackson “were contacted for the sole purpose” of serving the foreign defendants and knew that Akay “had a contractual agreement” with clients Geordy Murphy, Jerry Davis and Dux Capital Management, Akay’s complaint says. Akay asserts that one or both of the Baker & McKenzie partners initiated negotiations to replace Akay. Among the bigger firm’s alleged techniques to sell itself, Akay says Van Gundy falsely informed Davis that Akay was delaying matters. Akay claims that, to the contrary, at the time “Baker had not yet fully determined what the requirements were for successfully serving” the defendants in Taiwan. By August 2002 Davis had told Akay he was out and Baker & McKenzie was in, the complaint says. Davis and Dux withdrew from the suit Akay had filed, and Baker & McKenzie “later refiled the same action, copying almost verbatim” Akay’s complaint. Murphy stayed with Akay. Among other things, Akay’s suit accuses the defendants of intentional interference with prospective economic advantage and unfair competition. Akay declined Tuesday to elaborate on the nature of his agreement with his clients, citing the attorney-client relationship. In the underlying case, he said, he was representing minority shareholders of the Long Life Noodle Co., a local chain of eateries, who were facing off with a majority shareholder and directors for breach of fiduciary duty. Akay acknowledges in his complaint that serving defendants in Taiwan “was exceedingly difficult.” He said Tuesday that he didn’t know Jackson or Van Gundy before. It was one of his client’s ideas, he said, that to serve the defendants “maybe we should use Baker & McKenzie, since they had offices over in Taiwan.”

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