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Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr is planting its flag in Northern California with a Palo Alto office and a high-profile poach from Weil, Gotshal & Manges. Weil partner Curtis Mo, who once headed Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison’s Silicon Valley corporate practice and the firm’s national capital markets group, joined Wilmer Cutler as a partner effective this past weekend. He’ll lead Wilmer’s first West Coast office, which will be staffed with imports from other Wilmer offices along with local lateral hires. Nader Mousavi, a corporate partner from Wilmer’s Boston office, will join Mo, as will two unnamed IP litigation partners, one regulatory partner and two corporate associates, said William Perlstein, the firm’s co-managing partner. “We are in final negotiations for space in Palo Alto adequate to house 25 lawyers,” said Perlstein. “And I would expect to grow to that size in the next two or three years.” Mo said that other non-Wilmer lawyers would also be joining the firm in Palo Alto. “We are not here to build a little outpost,” said Mo, who was named one of the Dealmakers of the Year by the American Lawyer magazine in 2003. “The idea is to build a strong and sustained office.” National firms have continued to flock to the Silicon Valley in the five years since the boom went bust. For example, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker and Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham opened Silicon Valley offices this year, and Foley & Lardner arrived in 2004. Wilmer will find a crowded market, said legal recruiter Avis Caravello. “On the other hand, I think that being a national law firm, you really need to have a strong West Coast presence.” “The question” for arriving firms, says recruiter Larry Watanabe, is “where will the rest of the talent pool come from to fill out the offices?” Wilmer is the product of a June 2004 merger between Washington’s Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering and Boston-based Hale and Dorr. The firm had about 1,050 attorneys as of Monday, Perlstein said. Profits per partner were $870,000 last year. Perlstein said a California office was the newly merged firm’s No. 1 priority, since Hale and Dorr brought to the table expertise in IP and venture capital and Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering came with securities depth and a China practice. While it made sense for Hale and Dorr to be in Silicon Valley prior to the merger, the firm stayed out of the market because it did not want to compete with Brobeck, its partner in the European joint venture Brobeck, Hale and Dorr, both firm co-chairs said. The firm initially anticipated opening in California in early 2006, but accelerated its plan after being introduced to Mo and realizing that it was ahead of schedule in the integration of the two firms. Perlstein said lawyers in Wilmer Cutler’s Boston and Washington, D.C offices knew Mo and knew he was considering a change. “He’ll do a nice job,” said Mo’s old Brobeck partner, Warren Lazarow, now at O’Melveny & Myers in Silicon Valley. Lazarow wasn’t surprised to see another player moving into Silicon Valley. “The economy in the Valley is more and more robust,”said Lazarow. He reported getting “multiple calls a week” from firms outside of the Bay Area that are looking to move into the market. Mo had been at Weil since Brobeck dissolved in 2003. “He left on good terms,” said Weil partner Craig Adas, “and we wish him success with this newest firm.” Mo joined Brobeck in 1996. Before that he was at Dewey Ballantine. He said Monday that he expects clients to follow him, but declined to name them.

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