Six attorneys from Dorsey & Whitney, including the head of its Denver patent practice, have jumped to Brownstein Hyatt Farber & Schreck.

S. Craig Hemenway, who led the practice, is joined by former Dorsey partner Evan Rothstein, who focuses on litigation, and Nancy Simon, who is of counsel. Three associates also made the move, Hemenway said.

The additions bring to 13 the number of intellectual property lawyers in Denver, he said.

“It was a decision I thought long and hard about,” Hemenway said. “When it comes down to it, Brownstein knows what it is and what it wants to be.”

Minneapolis-based Dorsey now has 17 patent attorneys and agents in its Denver office, where Lee Osman, chairman of the firm’s global patent practice works. He said the departure of Hemenway, whom he named as head of the Denver patent group, was “difficult” but that Dorsey’s practice is “as strong as ever.” The firm, he said, recently added patent lawyers in Salt Lake City and Seattle.

Dorsey’s overall headcount has dropped steadily in recent years. In 2012, it had 517 lawyers, according to the NLJ 350, The National Law Journal’s annual survey of the nation’s largest law firms. The 2012 number total is 23 percent lower than the size of the Dorsey & Whitney at its peak of 670 lawyers in 2008.

Dorsey is part of the big-firm legal industry that has become smaller since 2008 because of the recession. In 2012, the total number of attorneys at the nation’s largest 250 law firms was 127,627, about 4.6 percent lower than headcounts at the largest 250 law firms in 2008.

Dorsey’s decrease is attributable to a reduction in the number of first-year associate hires, said Dorsey partner Bryn Vaaler, who coordinates business strategy for the firm.

“We have continued to hire both out of law school and laterally at all levels over the last few years, but because of the reduction in hiring out of law school, our new hires have not offset normal attrition,” he said.

In 2012, Dorsey had 263 partners, 201 associates and 53 other attorneys, according to the NLJ 350. In 2008, it had 277 partners, 312 associates and 80 other attorneys.

Denver-based Brownstein Hyatt had 216 attorneys in 2012, up two lawyers from 2011. It has 14 offices, including locations in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles. The “growth drivers” at Brownstein Hyatt are in the areas of lobbying, mergers and acquisitions and corporate work, Hemenway said.

Contact Leigh Jones at ljones@alm.com.