In Orange County, Morrison & Foerster’s Presence Shrinks

Maya Meinert

Daily Journal

February 13, 2008

LOS ANGELES - Coming on the heels of recent news that Morrison & Foerster would be shedding its Orange County corporate practice, the firm's last corporate partner based in that office has moved to Bingham McCutchen.

Craig Mordock, a corporate and securities attorney, said he joined Bingham because of the firm's focus in the region.

"Bingham's commitment to Orange County and Southern California, specifically in the corporate and litigation areas, attracted me to the firm," Mordock said. "Its strong corporate practice and its momentum offer me a great opportunity to grow my practice."

Gary Miles, of legal recruiting firm Alan Miles & Associates, brokered Mordock's move.

"Craig is a terrific lawyer who brings a unique skill set that will benefit our corporate clients," said Bingham's Orange County managing partner James Loss. "He has a local client base and experience with public and private companies that will help us grow stronger in Orange County."

Bingham's Orange County office recently lost eight land-use attorneys to Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, including partner Geoffrey Willis. At the time, Loss said, the firm was focused on building its corporate and litigation capabilities in Orange County.

News of Mordock's departure coincides with that of Morrison & Foerster discontinuing a full summer associate program in its Orange County office due to a decline "in size and scope of practice over the past six months," according to the firm's chairman, Keith Wetmore, who spoke to legal blog Above the Law late last week.

In an interview Tuesday, Wetmore said that due to "a series of individual decisions concerning personal and professional development" of his firm's Orange County attorneys, Morrison & Foerster has "redeployed" its corporate attorneys based in that office to other firm offices.

"While we have strong clients in Orange County, opportunities appeared stronger in other offices," he said. "We regularly counsel our partners on opportunities that look better for them."

There are seven partners left in Morrison & Foerster's Orange County office, along with four of counsels and 15 associates, according to the firm's Web site.

Robert Mattson, past co-chair of the firm's corporate group and co-chair of the public companies and securities group, recently transferred to Morrison & Foerster's San Francisco and Palo Alto offices. He had been a resident of the Orange County office since 1989, and has been with the firm since 1975.

Corporate and securities partner Brandon Parris also moved to the firm's San Francisco office from Orange County, and two associates have transferred there, Wetmore said.

He said that because of the attorney transfers and discontinuation of a corporate practice in Orange County, Morrison & Foerster no longer thought it could offer a full range of opportunities for the summer or permanent offers of employment in that office.

Wetmore said that the firm has offered to accommodate its summer associates by either moving them to another domestic or international office, or by splitting their time between Orange County and another office.

If a summer associate prefers to take a lower-paying public interest or pro bono job for the summer instead, Morrison & Foerster will pay them the difference.

"I'm sure it's a disruption to the summer associates, but on the other hand, it's less of a disruption than showing up and not being able to get an offer or get the full range of experience," Wetmore said. "We're trying to do the fairest thing we can in those circumstances."

Although the Orange County office has decreased in size, the firm does not plan to close the office, he said.

Morrison & Foerster opened the Orange County office 20 years ago, following the area's real estate construction boom. Since then, the firm has exited the real estate practice and now is focused on litigation involving intellectual property, class actions and labor and employment.

"We continue to have some very significant client relations in that market and want to keep a foot planted there," Wetmore said

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