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Chairman calls it quits after four years; job-loss fears permeate West Coast firm
Tower Snow, the highly-rated chairman of San Francisco's Brobeck Phleger & Harrison, has stepped down, leaving the firm's lawyers in fear of job losses. Snow, who has been in the role for four years, has decided against standing for a third two-year term. His move means that the firm's managing partner James Burns, who is picked by the chairman, also makes his departure. Snow had promised the firm's lawyers that there would be no layoffs under his leadership, despite the sweeping cuts being made throughout the West Coast law firms. Now the firm faces months of uncertainty because no cuts can be made until a new chairman is found and put in place, which will probably not happen until the beginning of next year. A new chairman will be announced in early Dec-ember, and soundings will begin being taken by a partnership committee of around 20 partners this week. They will visit every partner to ask for their choice of new chairman. The group will record all that information and then report to the seven-member policy committee of the firm in mid-November. Along with the operations committee, the policy committee will collate the information from the partnership and then put the candidates up for a partnership vote. The new chairman will take over at the beginning of next year, and a spokesman for the firm said that nothing could be done regarding staffing until then. "It's really up to the new chairman and managing partner," said the spokesman. "There's no way we can tie the hands of the future chairman - it's up to them." Snow's predecessor held the role of chairman for just one term before Snow took over. The chairman before that stood for four terms. Snow was on holiday from the firm and so was unavailable to comment on his reasons for stepping down. His practice is in securities litigation, a particularly important area for the firm at the moment as the economy struggles and corporate deals become few and far between. He joined Brobeck in 1995 as chair of the securities litigation group, having previously been a partner at Shearman & Sterling from 1989. Before that he was head of litigation at Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe.