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After more than 30 years in San Francisco, Coudert Brothers is closing up shop. The firm told its attorneys and staff Monday that it is shuttering the 12-lawyer office. The closure follows a string of partner defections from the firm. With the loss of three partners earlier this month, the office had just two partners, James Topinka and William Hebert. Topinka and Hebert could not be reached for comment, nor could other leading partners at the firm. But Coudert said in a statement Monday that it wanted to concentrate on its other offices. “The firm is taking steps to focus on its core offices as part of an overall plan to enhance efficiencies and to continue to deliver the highest caliber of legal services to its clients,” the statement said. “As part of a process that was initiated last year with respect to the Coudert presence in Northern California, the firm’s executive board has decided to phase out its operations in San Francisco.” Coudert said it would wind down the office over the summer. At one time, Coudert had about 60 lawyers in three Northern California offices. But after the dot-com bust, the firm began losing partners and sought to shore up its ranks by consolidating offices. The firm closed its San Jose office 2 1/2 years ago and moved lawyers there to Palo Alto. Then late last year it folded its Palo Alto outpost of a dozen attorneys into the San Francisco office. The San Francisco office has also gone through a couple of moves. In 2001, it relocated to the historic Cannery building near Fisherman’s Wharf. The firm found that to be a mistake and moved to One Market in 2002. A former Coudert partner said the firm still had space at the Cannery building that it has been unable to sublet. Following the closure of the California outpost, Coudert will have three offices in the United States, plus 17 overseas offices and associations with seven foreign firms. According to Coudert’s Web site, the firm has about 470 attorneys, including 95 lawyers in its New York headquarters, 28 in its Los Angeles office and 22 attorneys in its Washington, D.C., outpost. Coudert has been losing partners in other offices as well; since 2000, it has closed eight offices. Most recently, the nine partners in Coudert’s London office and the three in its Moscow outpost jumped to Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. Coudert responded by hiring renowned litigator Barry Ostrager, a partner at New York’s Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, to investigate whether Orrick and the departing Coudert partners had breached their fiduciary duties in their negotiations. Reporter Marie-Anne Hogarth contributed to this report.

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