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A decade-old friendship with a fellow ex-federal prosecutor and the chance to grow his practice at a global law firm planted the seeds for Michael Holston to take his three-partner practice group from Drinker Biddle & Reath to Morgan Lewis & Bockius. The loss cripples Drinker Biddle’s white-collar criminal defense litigation capability in Philadelphia, as fellow partners Lisa Chanow Dykstra and John Schultz started with Holston at Morgan Lewis on Friday. Dykstra, also a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, works with Holston on white-collar and criminal investigations. Schultz works with Holston in handling commercial class action litigation, as well as numerous ERISA matters. Local white-collar defense lawyers described Holston as a rainmaking litigator whose group was responsible for all of Drinker Biddle’s criminal defense and corporate investigations work emanating from its Philadelphia office. Holston said he has known Jack Dodds, head of Morgan Lewis’ corporate investigations and criminal defense practice, since their time together at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia in the early 1990s. He said Dodds has informally been recruiting him since the two went back into private practice. But it was only a few months ago that the discussions turned serious. Morgan Lewis made an impression on Holston with some recent high-profile acquisitions in the white-collar area, including Enron federal investigators Leslie Caldwell and John Hemann. Caldwell splits her time between New York and San Francisco while Hemann is situated in San Francisco. In addition, Holman said the San Francisco office — acquired largely as part of a 150-attorney group from Brobeck Phleger & Harrison two years ago — has a strong class action litigation capability. “Morgan Lewis is a global firm with a national platform and that will be really helpful with the class action work that we do,” Holston said. “A lot of my clients are Fortune 50 global technology companies based in Northern California. And on the white-collar side, I was struck by the addition of Leslie Caldwell and other former federal prosecutors. Jack and I sat down and realized that with all of the things going on at Morgan Lewis, it made sense for us to move.” Holston said Drinker Biddle was “terrific” when he told firm management he would be moving on. He said the two sides are still trying to work out which clients and what work will come with his group to Morgan Lewis. Drinker Biddle’s incoming chairman, Alfred Putnam, said Holston has a strong practice and will be missed. “We would love it if Mike was still part of our firm, but relative to the size of our litigation department, Drinker Biddle will be just fine,” Holston said. Putnam said the firm would hope to continue providing services to some of Holston’s clients. He said Drinker Biddle has white-collar capabilities in its New Jersey locales and would most certainly look to reload in that skill set in Philadelphia. Dodds, who worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office from 1988 to 1993, said despite the increase in client demand in the areas of corporate investigations and white-collar matters after the Enron scandal and subsequent Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Holston’s group was not brought in to handle existing work but rather enhance Morgan Lewis’ practice with its own book of business. Dodds said that Morgan Lewis most likely has the largest contingent of white-collar litigators of any major Philadelphia firm. James Pagliaro, leader of Morgan Lewis’ global litigation practice, said Holston’s team represents the first group acquisition of litigators the firm has executed in its Philadelphia office. He said it will continue to seek strategic additions in the white-collar and patent litigation practices on the West Coast, Chicago and London. Holston, 42, began his career at Drinker Biddle as a commercial litigator in 1987 after graduating from Villanova University School of Law. He joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1993, where he was assigned to the criminal division. He prosecuted a group of executives from Travelers Insurance Co. and several auto body shop owners in an alleged scam in which they were accused of recruiting people to commit false claims on their cars, saying an oil refinery in Marcus Hook, Pa., damaged them. Former NFL great Joe Klecko, accused of filing one of those claims, pleaded guilty to perjury charges in connection with the case. Holston returned to Drinker Biddle in November 1993 and made partner three years later, working alongside the head of the firm’s white-collar practice, Mike Rotko. When Rotko retired a few years later, Holston became practice chairman. Most recently he has represented the city of Philadelphia and city councilwoman Janie Blackwell in the City Hall corruption probe that led to the indictment of several city and business figures. He also represented the chief doctor involved in the gene therapy study at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania that resulted in the death of an 18-year-old man. Dykstra, 37, followed a path similar to Holston’s. She graduated from Villanova Law in 1992 and spent time at Drinker Biddle before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office; she was located in New Jersey. She returned to the firm in 1998. Holston said Dykstra not only has worked with him but also with Dodds on joint representations. Schultz, 40, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1989 and has been with Drinker Biddle since 1991. Holston said the two manage a class action practice that extends into 15 different states and focuses largely on consumer protection claims and products liability.

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