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Ritchey Fisher Whitman & Klein, an old-line Palo Alto, Calif., boutique known for its ties to the mayor’s office, has agreed to be acquired by Minneapolis-based Dorsey & Whitney. Ritchey Fisher, which over the years has provided the city with three of its mayors, is celebrating its 40th birthday this month with a letter of intent to merge with the national firm of more than 600 lawyers. About 15 lawyers are expected to join Dorsey within three months. Two other partners left for other firms over the last year, and a third partner is in transition. Dorsey came to the San Francisco Bay Area three years ago by acquiring intellectual property firm Flehr Hohbach Test Albritton & Herbert and already has 30 lawyers in San Francisco and Palo Alto. “We are executing on a strategy that began three years ago,” said Maria Swiatek, who heads Dorsey’s Palo Alto office. “It had been our business plan to expand with the addition of corporate and litigation to round out our IP practice.” Ritchey Fisher does that, says partner Craig Ritchey, plus tax work for technology entrepreneurs, something that Dorsey does in Seattle. The Ritchey lawyers say they’ll be able to better serve their clients at a larger firm. “Dorsey has offices in Seattle and Southern California,” says Ritchey. “Also what was very attractive to us was New York, and also the Asian offices are very important to us.” Dorsey’s Palo Alto lawyers will move into Ritchey’s offices on Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto. Ritchey said his firm grew up with Silicon Valley, representing such companies as Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp. and Apple Computer. It also has ties with Stanford University. For example, former partner Jean McCown was a Palo Alto mayor and became director of community relations at Stanford after leaving the firm. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati partner Bradford O’Brien called Ritchey’s firm “one of the last old-line, high quality small firms in Palo Alto.” He grouped them with Lakin Spears and Thoits, Love, Hershberger & McLean, firms that over the years stayed small, served regional clients and tended to grow slowly as other Palo Alto firms changed dramatically beginning in the 1970s. He gave the example of his own firm, Wilson Sonsini, which had 15 lawyers in 1978, when the firm was renamed Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and today has close to 600 attorneys. Ritchey said the decision to merge “came about because we had been receiving quite a few overtures from firms.” Nelson Dong, now a Dorsey partner in Seattle, had once worked at the Ritchey firm. Dong and Ritchey had been White House fellows together during the Carter administration. “We already had some relationship with the Dorsey firm,” said Ritchey. Dong introduced Ritchey and his partners to Dorsey Chairman Peter Hendrixson and Dorsey COO James Karlovich. And the conversations flourished from there.

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