Coats to Lead New Kaye Scholer Silicon Valley Office

Craig Anderson

Daily Journal

March 2, 2010

SAN JOSE - New York-based international law firm Kaye Scholer plans to make its presence felt quickly as it opens a Silicon Valley office.

Led by William Coats, a veteran intellectual property litigator who will be leaving White & Case on Thursday, Kaye Scholer wants to have a dozen lawyers in the new office as soon as possible and eventually expand to 30 or more. The firm plans to find space for a temporary office as soon as next week, and eventually settle into a permanent office in either Palo Alto or Menlo Park.

Coats, who helped to open Howrey's Silicon Valley office earlier in his career, said he may have become "an adrenaline junkie" to take on the challenge of opening another satellite office. "It's a lot of work and also very exciting," he said.

The 59-year-old Coats, whose clients include the DVD Copy Control Association and Pioneer Corp., is the latest and most high-profile California partner to leave White & Case.

Three other White & Case partners from its Palo Alto office - Heidi Keefe, Mark Weinstein and Mark Lambert, who had come with Coats from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in 2005 - left last summer to join Palo Alto-based Cooley Godward Kronish.

Their departures played a role in Coats' decision to leave White & Case.

"A number of my friends had left the office and gone to Cooley," Coats said Monday. "A lot of those things figure into the mix" of his decision to leave for Kaye Scholer.

Coats said the intellectual property practice at the 450-lawyer Kaye Scholer is a "more integral part of the firm" than at White & Case, which employs more than 2,000 attorneys worldwide.

He met for breakfast in December with Alan Fisch, who is now the Washington, D.C.-based co-chairman of Kaye Scholer's intellectual property practice and was once a colleague at Howrey.

The other co-chair of the firm's IP practice is Leora Ben-Ami, of New York City, who is considered one of the best patent litigators in the country.

Santa Monica-based legal recruiter Bill Vochoska, who put the deal together for Kaye Scholer, said the firm has planned to open a Silicon Valley office for at least seven years, but wanted the right person to lead it.

"We had not found that until we found Bill," Fisch said.

Fisch said he already is fielding resumes from attorneys interested in working at Kaye Scholer's Silicon Valley office when it opens. "There has been a great deal of interest and demand," he said Monday.

Tom Stromberg, a corporate finance partner in the firm's Los Angeles office, which opened in 1987, will be devoting more than half of his time to the new Silicon Valley office, Fisch said.

Meanwhile at White & Case, the recent and upcoming departures in its Palo Alto office have brought down its number to about two dozen lawyers from about 30 last year. "It's sad to see all that good work of his going away," Vochoska said.

The Palo Alto office had about eight lawyers in 2005 when Coats arrived.

Bijal Vakil, who replaced Coats as executive partner in White & Case's Palo Alto office after Coats recruited him in October 2008 from McDermott, Will & Emery, said he wished his predecessor well. He described White & Case's IP practice as "dynamic."

"Our IP group continues to grow, and we have promoted talented associates to partner this year to meet the client demand," Vakil said in a prepared statement. "Palo Alto is an important strategic office for the firm and our clients, and you should expect to see our office grow in the near future."

In another move announced officially on Monday, Curtis Mo - the founding partner of WilmerHale's Palo Alto office in 2005 and a corporate attorney - left that firm to join the East Palo Alto office of DLA Piper.

Mo could not be reached for comment Monday, but Howard Clowes - who heads DLA Piper's Northern California corporate practice - said he would beef up the firm's corporate practice. "From our standpoint, Curtis has a fantastic client base, particularly in venture capital," said Clowes, who said the firm is committed to be a long-term participant in that market despite the recent economic slump. "We are willing to stick to our guns."

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