Dorsey-Flehr: A Merger That Didn’t Take

With merger mania gripping the legal community this week, it’s worth remembering that sometimes these ventures don’t work out so well.

Take the news this week that Dorsey & Whitney may shutter its San Francisco office. That office is itself the result of a 2002 merger between what was then 750-lawyer Dorsey & Whitney and 27-lawyer IP boutique Flehr Hohbach Test Albritton & Herbert of San Francisco.

The first public sign that things might not be working out so well came in May 2005, when Dorsey did a second Bay Area merger, with Palo Alto’s Ritchey Fisher Whitman & Klein. Maria Swiatek, a Flehr Hohbach veteran, put a positive spin on it at the time.

“We are executing on a strategy that began three years ago,” she said. “It had been our business plan to expand with the addition of corporate and litigation to round out our IP practice.”

But today, the IP practice that came over from Flehr Hobach has grown thin. Only six of the 21 lawyers listed with Flehr Hohbach in the 2002 Martindale-Hubbell directory remain with Dorsey.

Two of the 2002 alumni are deceased. Six list what appear to be residential addresses with the State Bar. One is listed as inactive. Two have gone in house. One operates his own firm. One is at Townsend and Townsend and Crew, one is at Perkins Coie, and one works at Pepper Hamilton in Pittsburgh. Patent prosecutor Ann Caviani Pease, who was brought in from Cooley Godward to help anchor the Palo Alto office shortly after the Flehr Hohbach merger, left for Dechert in 2005.

Dorsey Deputy Managing Partner L. Joseph Genereaux put a different spin on it last week to the San Francisco Daily Journal: “We feel that putting all of the lawyers in Palo Alto, where we have the trial and corporate practice, makes the most sense at this time.”

— Scott Graham

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