Oppenheimer unsettled after mass defection

The future of Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly’s Silicon Valley office is hanging in the balance with the imminent defection of 25 of its lawyers to Dechert.

The Lawyer understands that the group, the majority of which are intellectual property (IP) lawyers, are on the verge of making the leap to Dechert’s fledgling West Coast practice, leaving 15 mainly corporate attorneys at Oppenheimer.

In February, Oppenheimer took the unusual step of putting its 40-lawyer Palo Alto branch up for sale, which included the buyer taking on 55,000sq ft of office space. The rent is believed to be around $120 (£73) per square foot a year, compared with a regional average of $30 (£18) per square foot. Oppenheimer took on the 10-year lease in 2000, at the height of the dotcom boom.

Sources indicate that Dechert, which has a small San Francisco office that opened in January, is assessing whether to take on the space.

Where the mass defection will leave Oppenheimer’s Palo Alto office is not clear, although it is understood that the firm is still conducting discussions with a number of interested parties.

The initial move of putting the Palo Alto office on the market coincided with a period of consolidation at Oppenheimer, which saw the firm shrink its West Coast presence. This included closing its Los Angeles office and trimming its number of lawyers based in Orange County.

Oppenheimer’s Palo Alto office was first formed in 1999 when the firm took on a group of IP lawyers, led by Michael Kalkstein and Chris Graham, from Graham & James.

Both Kalkstein and Graham are understood to be moving to Dechert.

Dechert was unavailable for comment and Oppenheimer declined to comment.