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As a co-managing partner of Ropes & Gray’s San Francisco office, one of Dana Welch’s tasks was to grow the eight-lawyer outpost. But in August, after just 14 months, Welch left to become general counsel of Ameriquest Capital Corp. While the office, first established 2 1/2 years ago, brought in a lateral associate, it did not lure any senior lawyers during Welch’s tenure. On Tuesday, the office brought in its first major hire since Welch. Glenn Krinsky left his post as general counsel of the City of Hope, a combination medical center and biomedical research institute based in Duarte, Calif., to join Ropes & Gray as counsel. But the Boston-based firm’s experience shows, yet again, how difficult it can be for out-of-town firms to gain traction in the Bay Area market. “There is every reason Ropes & Gray will be successful” in building a critical mass of lawyers, Welch said. “But it’s a long process. San Francisco, in a way, is a very provincial city.” “It’s tough for lawyers to think about going laterally to a non-San Francisco firm,” she said, “particularly one without a track record in San Francisco.” That could change, though, if Ropes & Gray is successful in its courtship of Fish & Neave. Last month, Jesse Jenner, the chairman of the New York-based intellectual property boutique, acknowledged that his firm has had preliminary talks with Ropes & Gray about a possible merger. Such a marriage would give Ropes & Gray an instant presence in Silicon Valley since Fish & Neave has 18 lawyers in its Palo Alto, Calif., office. John Chesley II, the partner in charge of Ropes & Gray’s San Francisco office, remained mum about whether the two firms were in discussions. But he said the addition of Krinsky is “good evidence of our success and intent to grow in the health care area.” At City of Hope, Krinsky grew the legal department to an in-house staff of seven and supervised more than 20 outside law firms. He handled all the institute’s health care law issues, from supervising litigation to managing labor and employment issues and the institute’s patent and trademark portfolio and overseeing bond financing and tax and real estate transactions. Welch said she wasn’t looking to leave Ropes & Gray until a headhunter called and told her about the Ameriquest position. “It’s the job of a lifetime,” Welch said. The largest non-prime mortgage lender in the country, Ameriquest has “taken on the challenge of moving from a private company to a leading player in the field.” Since joining Ameriquest Capital, a holding company for Ameriquest Mortgage Co. and Argent Mortgage Co., on Aug. 1, Welch has helped the Orange, Calif.-based company bring in several general counsel for its various businesses. Chesley said Welch’s departure would not deter the firm’s growth plans. The Ameriquest job “fits in the category of an offer she couldn’t refuse,” he said. “I am very sorry to have lost her as a colleague and am happy to regain her as a client.” Welch got to know Ropes & Gray during her tenure as general counsel of the now-defunct Robertson Stephens & Co. She left the San Francisco investment bank in 2001 and was an arbitrator for securities self-regulatory agencies, including the National Association of Securities Dealers, before joining Ropes & Gray.

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