Wiggin’s Coup Is Mintz's Morass

May 3, 2004
The Connecticut Law Tribune, May 3, 2004, by Keith Griffin
Wiggin’s Coup Is Mintz's Morass

As one of the state's best known high-tech and venture capital lawyers, Frank J. Marco's hopscotch across Connecticut law firms is well-documented. But Jack Dunham, Wiggin & Dana's executive committee chairman, said he's confident Wiggin will be Marco's last stop -- at least until he retires.
 
Along with fellow partner Paul A. Hughes, associate Jane C. Harrison and paralegal Kathleen Ellison, Marco late last month joined the New Haven-based firm -- his fourth in six years -- after a three-and-a-half-year stint running Boston-based Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo's Elm City outpost.
 
"Whenever we consider bringing in a partner laterally, we do thorough due diligence," Dunham said last week in announcing the coup. "Frank is not only an excellent lawyer and our kind of partner, but I am highly confident, because of the kind of person he is, Frank is going to retire from the practice of law as a Wiggin and Dana partner."
 
At Wiggin, Marco, 57, will head up its entrepreneurs and emerging companies practice group. He held a similar position at Day, Berry & Howard, the state's largest law firm, before leaving in September 2000 to open Mintz Levin's Connecticut beachhead in the waning days of the dot-com boom. Two years prior to that move, Day Berry had lured him away from Hartford-based Shipman & Goodwin.
 
Mintz Levin's entry into Connecticut hasn't gone exactly as planned. Within a year of the office's opening, a slowdown in business prompted Mintz to layoff two New Haven associates who primarily did work for the high-tech sector. The tech bust had an even greater impact on Mintz's Boston headquarters where it took the unusual step of extending $20,000 cash payments to more than a dozen first-year associates to walk away from job offers the firm had made the prior year when business was better.
 
Marco, however, said the New Haven office has since rebounded. "The economy started changing and we started getting busy last September. We weren't reacting to a situation. We were looking down the road and seeing what made the most sense," he said of his move to 155-lawyer Wiggin & Dana.
 
"It was best for us strategically, and in serving our clients, to be part of a larger, in-state service provider," he added. " ... Mintz Levin was a wonderful place. We leave with deep, warm feelings for the firm and the people."
 
Gina Addis, director of public relations for Mintz Levin, returned the sentiment, wishing Marco and his three colleagues success at their new home. As for Mintz's New Haven office, "We have over a dozen attorneys admitted to the Connecticut bar and we have over 100 Connecticut-based clients," Addis said.
 
The 450-lawyer firm's web site lists the New Haven office as having four partners, including employment, labor and benefits specialist Jennifer B. Rubin, and two associates, though most of the six split their time in either its Boston or New York offices.
 
Marco said the decision to join Wiggin is in large part due to its culture. "It was very important to find a firm where teamwork is the name of the game, a culture that promotes a cooperative, collegial atmosphere among the attorneys," he said. "We need a better in-state support structure for our clients. It's a more efficient way to deliver services and to stay involved with our clients."
 
PAYBACK?
 
Ironically, Wiggin & Dana was one of the main targets of Mintz's recruiting efforts at the onset of the office's opening. In October 2000, the New Haven-based firm opted to raise select corporate and intellectual property associates' salaries by between $20,000 to $25,000 a year in a bid to thwart Mintz from cherry-picking its ranks. "We cannot remain inactive while Mintz Levin seeks to improve the quality of its new office at our expense," firm management wrote in an e-mail to W&D associates. "The inescapable conclusion is that for the long-term welfare of everyone at the firm, we should act quickly and decisively to ensure that we retain corporate associates related to the targeted practice areas."
 
Marco is a co-founder of the Connecticut Technology Council, a member of the Connecticut Software Cluster Advisory Board, the operating committee of Connecticut United for Research Excellence and is a co-founder of the MIT Enterprise Forum of Connecticut. He has over 30 years experience representing venture capital investors and emerging growth companies.
 
Hughes, a former law clerk to Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Fleming L. Norcott Jr., had worked as an associate under Marco when he was at Shipman & Goodwin. Before joining Mintz Levin, he had been vice president and general counsel for Kelson Pediatric Partners, a Hartford-based, venture capital-backed, physicians' practice management outfit.
 
Harrison is a 1997 University of Connecticut School of Law graduate.