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June 9, 2011 3:43 PM

Another Practice Leader Leaves Holme Roberts

Posted by Brian Baxter

Holme Roberts & Owen is losing another practice group leader, as David Strong, the chair of the Denver-based firm's tax department, moves to Morrison & Foerster. Holme Roberts, which had 192 lawyers earlier this year, has seen a raft of departures in recent months.

Strong joins Holme's former corporate and M&A practice leader Hendrik Jordaan, who left the Am Law 200 firm last September to become the chair of MoFo's global private equity investments and buyouts practice in Denver. Strong, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his move Thursday, also serves as vice chair of the American Bar Association's corporate tax committee.

In a statement from MoFo announcing the hire, Strong said his new firm "is well recognized for advising on large M&A transactions, including recent high-profile cross-border deals for Hitachi, Intel, and Toshiba. The firm's high standards and commitment to excellence, coupled with its impressive client roster and integrated tax and transactional practices, were very attractive to me."

Strong's departure comes after The Am Law Daily reported last month that 27 lawyers--including 16 partners--had left Holme Roberts's office in Salt Lake City for Holland & Hart. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that one former Holme Roberts partner making the move, ex-litigation chair Blaine Benard, joined his brother Bryan at Holland & Hart. (Blaine Benard declined to comment on the reasons behind the mass departures.)

The lateral moves reduced the number of Holme Roberts lawyers in Salt Lake from 33 to six, and left a hole that the firm now has to fill if it wants to remain viable in that market. Holme Roberts managing partner Randall Miller, who took over the top job at the firm last month, told the Salt Lake Tribune that the departures were "not our idea or our choice."

The Salt Lake losses were followed by the departure of Gino Maurelli, the former head of the M&A group at Holme Roberts, who joined Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck along with of counsel Nicholas Claassen, according to Law Week Colorado. Also leaving in May was environmental litigator Nea Brown, the former cochair of Holme Roberts's clean tech practice group, who Law Week reports joined Denver boutique Temkin Wielga & Hardt.

Miller took over as managing partner in May from Paul Smith, who had been serving in the role since January, when predecessor Kenneth Lund left Holme Roberts to become chief legal counsel to newly elected Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. Miller was unavailable for comment on Thursday, but did speak with the Denver Business Journal last month

Law Week reported in May that Holme Roberts cut a number of staff members and closed its office in Scottsdale, Ariz., on the advice of outside legal consulting firm Altman Weil. Miller told Law Week at the time that Altman Weil supported the firm's decision to open offices in larger legal markets like San Francisco and Los Angeles and that Holme Roberts will now focus on growing in its home state of Colorado.

Miller told Law Week that before being named managing partner he helped conduct a "pretty rigorous national review" of legal consultants as a member of Holme Roberts's executive committee. He said Altman Weil has pointed out ways the firm "could assist ourselves in increasing our agility and finding even more efficient ways to meet our goals." (Altman Weil principals Bill Brennan and Ward Bower, who we chatted with earlier this year about partner pay and group lateral moves, did not respond to requests for comment about their work for Holme Roberts.)

The number of attorneys working at Holme Roberts dropped by 10 lawyers to 192 during 2010, according to annual headcount data compiled by The National Law Journal, a sibling publication. Earlier this year, Holme Roberts lost its Munich office when Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe snatched eight lawyers from the firm, including M&A partners Jens Roehrborn and Joerg Ritter. Holme Roberts did announce in May the hire of estate planning partner Susan von Herrmann in San Francisco from Fitzgerald Abbott & Beardsley.

Through the end of the last fiscal year, Holme Roberts's revenue and profit numbers appear to be holding stable. According to the most recent Am Law 200 financial data, the firm's gross revenue fell 0.5 percent to $104 million in 2010, while profits per partner increased 24.6 percent to $380,000.

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