Brobeck Hale and Dorr sparks US assault on regional law firms

US firm Brobeck Hale and Dorr is taking three top partners from Morgan Cole to set up its office in Oxford.

The technology giant is the first US firm in the UK to venture outside London, and has taken most of Morgan Cole's Thames Valley corporate practice for the launch.

Corporate partners Joe Pillman, Jonathan Loake and Kate Eavis are joining the firm. Pillman and Loake are recognised as two of the leading corporate finance partners in the South East.

Their departure is a double blow to Morgan Cole, which was developing a close referral relationship with the US firm. Last summer it helped cover the maternity leave of one of Brobecks' partners Julia Bracewell, and last week the two firms worked on the flotation of high-tech company Bookham Technology.

Brobecks London managing partner Tom Kellerman says that an Oxford office was the next logical step.

He says: “We have been trying to keep our eyes open for logical places to have a presence. We are very focused on technology clients and young emerging companies and those kind of entities benefit from having a close relationship with their lawyers.

“Oxford has become quite active in promoting commercial technology companies that come out of the university. The university and its pool of talent starts to generates its own start-ups, and we want to be a part of it.”

Brobeck Hale and Dorr is a joint venture between two US firms – San Francisco-based Brobeck Phleger & Harrison and Boston firm Hale and Dorr.

Kellerman says that in the US the two firms have opened a number of offices in university towns where technology companies tend to be based.

The firm is considering moving into Cambridge and other university towns in Europe, but there are no immediate plans.

Kellerman says that Brobecks will work closely with Morgan Cole to ensure that all three partners' clients have a smooth transition – either to the new firm or to other Morgan Cole lawyers.

The director of Morgan Cole's business services division Bleddyn Rees says: “The business services team, which incorporates corporate and commercial, is made up of 82 lawyers, so the departure of three partners will not make a great impact on the way that we do things.”