Rochester, New York. Photo:

The group of legal professionals joining Pepper Hamilton from LeClairRyan has swelled to 24, including a dozen total lawyers, growing the Philadelphia-based firm’s new Rochester, New York, office.

The law firm confirmed last month that five LeClairRyan intellectual property lawyers would be making the move to Pepper Hamilton to launch the new office. They will be joined by seven more lawyers—six associates and one senior attorney—as well as four patent agents, two technical specialists and several paralegals.

The partners leading the group are Michael Goldman, Gunnar Leinberg and Andrew Zappia. According to Goldman, Pepper Hamilton will be taking over LeClairRyan’s office space in Rochester, but he declined to say whether LeClairRyan was pulling out of the city entirely.

LeClairRyan president Elizabeth Acee, who was named to that position earlier this month, could not be reached for comment.

Goldman said his group began talking with Pepper Hamilton more than half a year ago, in the summer. “We’ve been talking steadily and things moved forward since then,” he said.

Pepper Hamilton managing partner Thomas Cole said his firm was not targeting Rochester as a geographic region. It was the LeClairRyan group’s substantive IP practice, and its presence in the health sciences space, that made the hire strategic, he said.

“Mike and his team have been working together well over a decade. … They are very specialized and have complementary skills to the work we do,” Cole said. “If we were to go and try to build the capabilities that Mike’s team has on an individual or one-off, two-off basis, it would have taken a very long time to do that.”

The new group will be housed in Pepper Hamilton’s health sciences department, Cole said, and will work closely with others throughout the firm, including the IP department. Goldman said his group is strongly situated in health sciences in its patent work, both in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.

He declined to name clients or characterize the size of the group’s book of business. According to court records, clients in recent years have included GlaxoSmithKline, Arcadia Biosciences, Albany Molecular Research and Interactive One LLC.

Goldman said his group engaged in discussions with other law firms that saw their location in Rochester as a limitation, but Pepper Hamilton did not, which he characterized as “forward-thinking.”

Still, Cole said the firm is not seeking to add more lawyers in Rochester in the near future.

LeClairRyan saw 42 partners leave in 2018, and lost at least 20 more within the first month of 2019, according to data from ALM Intelligence.

In a recent interview with ALM about the Rochester departures, Acee said, “We’re building law firm 2.0 and we’ll be stronger,” referring to the firm’s newest venture with alternative legal services provider UnitedLex Corp. In June, LeClairRyan partnered with UnitedLex to launch ULX Partners LLC, which outsources nonlegal operations for law firms for a minority equity stake in the venture. As a result, more than 300 LeClairRyan employees joined the new venture.

Asked about the differences between his former firm and Pepper Hamilton, Goldman said Pepper Hamilton is “a very established firm” with mature practices.

“LeClairRyan was a relatively young firm and has a lot more things going on there as far as issues,” Goldman said. But asked whether recent departures from and changes at LeClairRyan pushed his group to leave, Goldman said they were more motivated by the opportunity at Pepper Hamilton.

“The leadership at LeClairRyan has been nothing but professional and cooperative and has handled the transition in a very professional way,” Cole added.

Pepper Hamilton has also experienced changes over the past few years, Cole acknowledged. From 2015 to 2017, the firm’s head count slimmed from nearly 500 lawyers to 450, and its gross revenue declined from $388.5 million to $341.8 million.

Cole said the firm has been more focused on revenue per lawyer and profits per equity partner in recent years. It also created an industry-focused health sciences department in 2017, pulling together over 100 attorneys across practices.

“It is a slightly different firm than it was in 2014 and 2015,” Cole said.

Pepper Hamilton has not publicly released its 2018 results, but Cole said it grew revenue per lawyer and made important additions in California and New York throughout the year.

“We think the firm is matched well now [in terms of] head count and demand. And we’re optimistic about 2019 and beyond,” he said.

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