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December 7, 2010 6:21 PM

Skadden to Shutter San Francisco Office

Posted by Claire Zillman

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom announced last week that it will close its San Francisco office at the end of June 2011, according to sibling publication The Recorder.

The firm invited the lawyers in the San Francisco office--17 associates, three counsel, and four partners--to move to its Palo Alto office. 

Corporate partner Kenton King, who manages both the San Francisco and Palo Alto offices, told The Recorder that the closing isn't a loss of confidence in San Francisco, adding that he thinks of San Francisco and Palo Alto as one market. 

"If you look at where there's more growth, where there are more companies and more capital formation, it isn't San Francisco," King said. 

San Francisco partner James Lyons sees the move as a positive for the firm's litigation practice, noting that there are 15 litigators in Palo Alto and about 25 litigators in San Francisco. "This is an excellent opportunity for the firm--and for the litigation practice in particular--for everyone to be under one roof," he said.

But for many attorneys in nonmanagement positions, the announcement came as a surprise, according to The Recorder. One lawyer who wished to remain anonymous told The Recorder that the office's mood "is not good," and that "some people are very upset."

King acknowledged that the office consolidation will result in some staff reductions. "We don't know the numbers yet," he said.

Four years ago, Skadden transferred its corporate lawyers in San Francisco to the firm's Silicon Valley office, said King, but he never planned on completely combining the two offices. Skadden's San Francisco office first opened in 1987, and the firm plans to keep the pared-down office space in San Francisco for meetings.

King said Skadden will counsel its San Francisco clients, including Visa Inc., McKesson Corp., PG&E Co., and Zyngo Inc., out of the Palo Alto office. 

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Bad spin. I think they should be honest and let people know it is an economically driven decision, and an unfortunate set of circumstances for employees. They should also publicize the generous severance packages they are offering staff...it will show good will. Also, if the firm is turning a corner and this is just the first of major changes, they should go public with that now by announcing a new business model. Get ahead of it and lead the way for other BIG & OLD firms to follow.

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