Conquering the US

The launch of Clifford Chance's San Francisco office saw the profession's biggest ever lateral hire

CC makes lateral-hire history with mammoth raid on Brobeck
The award for most dramatic saga so far this year has to go to San Francisco-based Brobeck Phleger & Harrison. Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells plundered the West Coast firm for the biggest lateral hire in the history of the legal profession.
Although synonymous with the technology boom of 1999 and 2000, a troubled 2001 saw Brobeck slip from its turnover top spot in San Francisco, losing out to local rival Morrison & Foerster. Unfortunately, 2002 has not proved any better for Brobeck. The year kicked off with the seven firms most identified with the technology boom – Brobeck, Cooley Godward, Fenwick & West, Gray Cary Ware & Freid-enrich, Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian, Venture Law Group and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati – battling against the slump in their core practice area, and having to make job cuts where necessary.
Brobeck resorted to freezing associate salaries to stave off the effects of the economic downturn after refusing to lay off any workers. The firm finally axed 54 associates and 85 additional staff in February and a further 35 associates and 85 additional staff at the beginning of May.
In May, Clifford Chance began talks with Brobeck to take on a number of securities litigation partners to open an office in San Francisco, a move that would provide Clifford Chance with its first presence on the West Coast. The Brobeck breakaway group was led by senior partner and former chairman Tower Snow and had an impressive list of clients, including Viacom, Credit Suisse First Boston and Merrill Lynch.
By the end of the month Snow was expelled from Brobeck following the leak of the attempted 35-partner exodus to Clifford Chance and his behaviour was branded as “simply unacceptable” by current chairman Richard Odom.
Clifford Chance opened its San Francisco office on 1 July. It managed to capture more than 20 partners and top-level staffers – including Tower Snow and his team – along with many of Brobeck's clients. By the end of the year, Clifford Chance expects 100 lawyers and 60 staff in its new offices along the West Coast.
Withers announces new US partnership and NY office
Withers had a hectic start to the year, announcing in January its merger with US private client firm Bergman Horowitz & Reynolds, producing a firm totalling 70 partners, 360 staff and a combined turnover of £40m. The US and UK sides of the merged firm changed their old partner remuneration schemes to mirror each country's traditional systems. Partners on both sides of the Atlantic are now paid half based on their performance and half on a fixed share of the profits. Withers also announced plans for a New York office, which is due to be launched in October and will be headed by Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft private client partner Ed Granski. Granski will be joined by Withers London partner Ian Marsh and US partner Dave De Brow.
A&O hires boost US capability
Allen & Overy's (A&O) most recent triumph was its June hiring of Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz senior associate Michael Jahnke as a partner, enabling the magic circle firm to establish competition capability in the US. Senior New York real estate partner Kevin O'Shea is also joining the firm from Paul Hastings.
O'Shea's hire represents a huge vote of confidence in the New York office and in the international real estate strategy from the A&O partnership.
At A&O, O'Shea will set up a practice focusing on real estate debt and equity investment, securitisation, credit facilities, traditional mortgage financing and joint ventures. But it was not all good news for the magic circle firm. Head of tax in New York Robert DeJoy left A&O for Baker & McKenzie, claiming that limited resources prompted his departure.

US domestic mergers

Bingham Dana and McCutcheon Doyle amalgamation hits US top 20
Bingham Dana merged with San Francisco-based McCutcheon Doyle Brown & Emerson. The link-up became effective on 1 July. The combined firm, named Bingham McCutcheon, ranks as approximately the twentieth largest firm in the US, with revenues in excess of $400m (£235.6m).
Rosenman and Katten Muchin merger gives record NY presence for Chicago firm
On 27 March, New York-based Rosenman & Colin merged with Chicago firm Katten Muchin Zavis. The merger entity, named Katten Muchin Zavis Rosenman, has established one of the largest New York offices of any Chicago firm. The marriage creates a firm of nearly 700 lawyers.
Morgan Lewis & Bockius swallows up Hopgood for patent litigation boost
Morgan Lewis & Bockius merged with New York firm Hopgood Calimafde Judlowe & Mondolino in January, in a move to hoist up its patent litigation capability. By adding Hopgood's lawyers and reputation for patent litigation work, Morgan Lewis immediately raised its game. Francis Milone, who chairs Morgan Lewis & Bockius, said: “We didn't have the expertise in pharmaceutical industry patent litigation, and that's what Hopgood offered.”