Manatt Phelps Acquires IP Boutique (Palo Alto)

May 5, 1999


PALO ALTO – Los Angeles’ Manatt, Phelps & Phillips has acquired Palo Alto’s Wise & Shepard, a 15-lawyer boutique that specializes in transactional work for emerging high-tech companies. The merger, effective June 2, will quadruple Manatt’s Silicon Valley presence from five lawyers to 20.

The seven Wise & Shepard partners will be joining as partners. They are Thomas L. Barton, Lisa Barton Armando, David R. Foley, Amy L. Gilson, David W. Herbst, Jerrold F. Petruzzelli and Tina M. Singh. Accompanying them are six associates, one contract lawyer and one of counsel.

The Wise & Shepard acquisition is considered a hiring coup because Silicon Valley transactional practices are so highly coveted. The deal was facilitated by legal recruiter Larry Watanabe of Watanabe & Nason.

Manatt already has a 1-year-old Menlo Park office anchored by T. Hale Boggs, a key corporate partner who relocated from Los Angeles, and Robert B. Anderson who was formerly the co-chair of the banking and financial services group in Lane Powell Spears Lubersky’s San Francisco office. The office primarily served the firm’s financial institution clients, including Comerica Bank, Greater Bay Bancorp and Silicon Valley Bancshares.

The Wise & Shepard lawyers will allow Manatt to break into the tightly knit, high-tech community. “It has always been our intention to expand into the emerging company sector with the right group of people,” says Manatt’s managing partner Gordon Bava. “We were very fortunate in meeting Wise & Shepard, which couldn’t be a better fit for us in culture, quality and reputation.”

Wise & Shepard was opened in 1980 as the West Coast office of New York’s Holtzmann, Wise & Shepard. In 1995, the Silicon Valley office separated from the New York side of the firm, which dissolved soon after the split.

Although it does some litigation, Wise & Shepard specializes in transactional work, including the initial organization of companies, venture capital financing, initial public offerings and mergers and acquisitions. Among the firm’s clients are Praxon, Videonics, Paragon Vision Sciences, Convoy Corp., Switchsoft Systems, Lifesleep Systems Inc., Exemplar Logic, Mars Technologies and Scitor Corp.

The firm is especially known for its work in the biotechnology industry. Wise & Shepard was general counsel to Syntex before it was purchased by Roche Group in 1994, and Barton was a founder of Neurex before it was bought by Elan Pharmaceuticals in 1998. Together, the Wise & Shepard lawyers reportedly control about $6 million in business. Aside from Manatt, Wise & Shepard had several other suitors, including Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton.

Although the goal is to combine offices as soon as possible, Manatt will keep both offices in Palo Alto and Menlo Park in operation for a few months because of space constraints, says Bava.

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