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Given what happened the last time Frode Jensen tried to join a new law firm, he could be forgiven for staying low-key about his most recent move. Two years ago, Jensen’s announced departure to the New York office of Latham & Watkins prompted his former firm, Pillsbury Winthrop, to issue an unprecedented press release accusing him of sexual harassment and declining productivity. In the highly public uproar that followed, Jensen was obliged to give up his bid to join Latham, which would have paid him more than $1 million a year. He then sued Pillsbury for $45 million. In March 2003, Pillsbury publicly apologized to Jensen as part of a settlement whose other terms were undisclosed. Following that, it was widely presumed he would neither need nor want to return to a firm. But now he is back. Since July, Jensen has been a partner in the New York office of Holland & Knight, a move that will be officially announced next week. Charged with helping to build the firm’s corporate and mergers and acquisitions practice, Jensen said in an interview Monday that he is eager to get back into the swing of things. “There was a period of healing to get over,” he said, “but staying busy and staying intellectually stimulated and saving for the future are all important goals.” Jensen said he thought about going another route. For much of the past two years, he has been a founder, director and general counsel for Voyager Healthcare, a Connecticut-based consolidator of hospice care companies. While he was there, the company raised $40 million to fund its acquisitions. But after a period of soul-searching last year, Jensen, whose corporate law practice focused on biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, decided he wanted to go back to the career he had known. “At the end of the day, it wasn’t for me,” he said. “I’m 54. I’m not certain about being a good manager or operator, but I know I’m a good lawyer.” In his suit against Pillsbury, Jensen claimed that its actions had harmed his future employability, but he said Monday the statement was made in the heat of battle. In fact, he said, he was contacted by numerous law firms seeking to bring him on board. He also considered launching a solo practice but ultimately decided against it, he said. “It really wasn’t appropriate for someone of my background,” said Jensen, who was an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell before joining Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts, which merged with San Francisco’s Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro in 2001. Jensen said he had already known partners at Holland & Knight who were eager to have him join the firm. When he entered the process to become a partner at the 1,200-lawyer firm at the beginning of 2004, he said, he candidly addressed the accusations made in Pillsbury’s press release, which he has maintained are untrue. “They agreed I was not at fault,” he said. Steven Sonberg, the chairman of Holland & Knight’s corporate group, said the earlier controversy was not an issue for partners at the firm. FITS THE CULTURE “We looked at Frode as a corporate lawyer with 25 years of experience,” said Sonberg. “We saw him as the sort of person who would fit in with our firm culture.” With regard to his compensation at the firm, Jensen would only say Holland & Knight had been “very generous.” The Tampa, Fla.-based firm had profits per partner of $545,000 in 2003, according to the most recent financial survey of U.S. law firms by The American Lawyer magazine, a Law Journal affiliate. The Pillsbury press release about Jensen stunned the legal community when the firm issued it on Sept. 4, 2002. Characterized by the firm as a response to an earlier announcement by Latham & Watkins, the release stated that Pillsbury had investigated alleged inappropriate behavior by Jensen and responded with a variety of measures. In the statement, firm chairwoman Mary Cranston concluded that Jensen’s departure was “in the best interest of all concerned.” Firm managing partner Marina Park said in a later interview that the firm had sent the unusual statement because it had received “third-party feedback” that perceptions of Jensen’s departure could hurt Pillsbury in the market for lateral partners. The release and the legal battle that followed, for which Jensen engaged high-powered Manhattan litigator Stanley Arkin, illuminated both law firms’ increased ruthlessness and anxiety regarding their competitiveness. Manhattan legal recruiter Lynn Mestel of Mestel & Co. said Jensen’s reputation had mostly been rehabilitated in the course of events, with the fault for the incident now firmly resting with Pillsbury. “He didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. “He just wanted to change law firms.” She also said Jensen’s background would have been appealing to a number of firms. “If he was good enough to be a partner at Pillsbury and good enough to be a partner at Latham, he’s clearly a pretty good lawyer,” she said. Jensen said the events of the past two years are over and done as far as he is concerned. He said he would have no trepidation about working on matters in the future with lawyers from either Pillsbury or Latham. EXPANDING PRACTICE AREA Indeed, working on matters with firms of that caliber would be the natural outcome of a fully successful expansion of Holland & Knight’s corporate capability. Building a stronger transactional practice, particularly in New York, has long been an ambition of the firm. Sonberg said he thought Jensen and James Lurie, a partner who joined the firm from O’Melveny & Myers last year, would lead efforts in that direction. Jensen said he thought a firm of Holland & Knight’s size — it was ranked the ninth-largest in the country last year — needs to have a stronger corporate presence, and he said he looked forward to the challenge. “This is an enormous opportunity,” he said.

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