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June 23, 2009 6:25 PM

Morgan, Lewis Gets Energy Boost from Baker Botts

Posted by Vivian Yee

David Asmus, head of the global oil and gas transactions practice at Baker Botts, has left the firm to lead the energy transactions practice at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.

Joining him is Baker Botts partner Michael King, who will help Asmus expand Morgan, Lewis's growing Houston office. The lateral moves follow the addition of eight partners to Morgan, Lewis's energy transactions team in November, as well as the near-tripling of the firm's Houston presence under office managing partner Brady Edwards over the last year and a half.

Calling Asmus's move a "huge acquisition" for his firm, Morgan, Lewis head of business and finance David Pollak says the oil and gas rainmaker will have two priorities at the firm: expanding its Houston office, and building up a transactions practice to match its energy regulatory group.

"Now we have a variety of different energy sources covered," he says. "That, together with the regulatory group, is really a unique expertise for the firm."

Asmus has been with Baker Botts since 1985, concentrating on project development, asset acquisitions, and energy-based financings. He's built a client portfolio that includes BP and Occidental Petroleum Corporation. When we spoke to him, Asmus was in the process of calling clients he hopes to bring with him to Morgan, Lewis.

Despite his comfortable position at Baker Botts, Asmus says Morgan, Lewis is offering him the opportunity to "step everything up a notch." He says he'll be able to broaden his practice to include utilities and alternative energy companies and take advantage of the firm's larger international presence.

"Anytime you look at leaving someplace you've been for 24 years, you think long and hard," Asmus says. "The more I looked, the better the opportunity looked."

The move is a "quite a coup" for Morgan, Lewis, says Stephen Mims of Houston-based Prescott Legal Search, but Baker Botts should have no trouble sustaining the loss. "Baker Botts has tremendous depth in the energy practice," he says. "Although this will be a blow to them, they'll come out of this just fine."

Baker Botts global projects head Stuart Schaffer agrees. "We will miss him," he says, but in the end, the firm is losing two out of many oil and gas attorneys. As for the possibility of losing big clients, "We are not shy about saying we are number one in the world," Schaffer says.

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