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Even as Coudert Brothers considered taking legal action against Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe last week over the poaching of lawyers in London and Moscow, Coudert watched its San Francisco office unravel. Three of the firm’s San Francisco partners — Donald Bartels, Edward Lozowicki and Mathew Troughton — will leave for other firms in June. Bartels is headed to Nixon Peabody’s San Francisco office, and Lozowicki and Troughton are headed to the San Francisco office of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton. That leaves just two partners — James Topinka and William Hebert — in Coudert’s last remaining Northern California office. The defections come as Coudert is working to stave off a string of departures worldwide. Most recently, Orrick recruited 11 Coudert partners in London and Moscow. One lawyer familiar with the situation suggested Orrick may have been in preliminary merger talks with Coudert around that same time. Coudert has hired Barry Ostrager, a partner at New York’s Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, to represent the firm. He says Coudert “intends to seek all available and appropriate remedies,” against Orrick and possibly the partners who departed there. Orrick is being represented by litigation partners Ronald Rolfe and Timothy Cameron from Cravath, Swaine & Moore, although a spokesman for Orrick said the Cravath partners were retained earlier as a routine part of bringing over lawyers from another firm. Coudert, which once had offices in Palo Alto, San Jose and San Francisco, announced last fall that it was shuttering its Palo Alto office. At the end of last year, it had almost a dozen partners in its two Bay Area offices. And now it’s two partners and a handful of other lawyers in one office. “This is a law firm that five years ago had over 60 lawyers in Northern California,” said legal recruiter Larry Watanabe, who has recruited many lawyers from Coudert in the past several years, most recently Lozowicki and Troughton to Sheppard, Mullin. “It is my opinion that the losses of their London and Moscow offices, coupled with these recent events, will make it very hard for them to sustain an office in Northern California.” Lozowicki and Troughton, both construction litigators, will head up Sheppard, Mullin’s construction litigation practice in Northern California and will work with the real estate practice group. “It’s one of our up-and-coming practice groups in Southern California,” said Guy Halgren, chair of Sheppard, Mullin. “We have been looking to build it up in Northern California.” Lozowicki, who joined Coudert in 1995, also adds PUC regulatory expertise. His practice included representing energy companies.Both partners previously worked at Pettit & Martin. “I’ve got six or seven partners from Pettit and they knew Ed well,” said Halgren. Bartels joins Nixon Peabody as a capital partner. “Don is very well-regarded,” said John Rosenthal, a partner on Nixon Peabody’s firmwide managing committee. “He is a technically very strong computer electronics, software and IP lawyer, which plays into the sweet spot of our practice.” Bartels was a co-founder of McCubbrey, Bartels, Meyer & Ward, which merged with Coudert in the 1990s. Hebert, one of the remaining partners in Coudert’s San Francisco office, referred all comment to a firm spokesman, who did not return telephone calls.

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