New ventures spark spin-off

Tuesday, July 22
PITTSFIELD — The spin-off of four partners at the Cain, Hibbard, Myers & Cook law firm was motivated by an interest in "new business opportunities," and goodwill has marked the decision process, a departing partner said yesterday.

"I'm really excited about this, and I have the utmost respect for the people I work with," said Kevin Kinne, a partner who will leave as of Jan. 1, with Leonard H. Cohen, C. Jeffrey Cook and David Valicente. "We truly mean it when we say we wish each other well. I have no doubt both firms will be very successful, we all respect each other and want each other to do well."

Lucy Prashker, a partner since 2000 and spokeswoman for the firm's executive committee, said Cain, Hibbard has a long tradition in the community and is in a strong business position, with extremely loyal clients. She said the firm will continue its "growth mode" and that the attorneys all wish each other success.

Cain, Hibbard, presently with 18 attorneys, announced the planned departure of Cohen, Kinne, Cook and Valicente last week in an e-mail to members of the Berkshire Bar Association.

Another partner, William B. Roberts, is leaving for unrelated reasons on Aug. 1, and will open a private practice. Another associate, Lori Levinson, will be departing as well, said Prashker.

The firm is advertising to hire one new corporate lawyer.

The news has surprised others in the legal community, particularly the departure of Cohen, 73, a lifelong defense attorney who works in state and federal courts, and Cook, 67, whose practice focuses on business deals, acquisitions and mergers.

Kinne, 43, focuses on securities and commercial litigation and employment law and has won multi-million dollar cases for clients, according to the firm's Web site. Valicente, a newer partner, practices a range of business law specialties, including trademark and copyright law.

Prashker said yesterday that William Roberts has been planning for some time to open his own private practice, William B. Roberts LLC, with the goal of reducing his caseload and spending more time with his family at their Adirondack house. He will share office space with Cain, Hibbard, and they will collaborate with future cases, said Prashker.

The departure of the five partners will, incidentally, transform the firm into one run mainly by women at the top and through the ranks: Three of the five remaining Cain Hibbard partners will be women, as will five of the seven remaining associates.

"Isn't that great?" said a former partner, David O. Burbank, who left years ago to open a mediation practice. He recalled working hard to recruit women to practice law in the Berkshires in the 1970s and 1980s, but said that many gravitated toward big city opportunities. "Cain Hibbard is a great place to work for women, and for men," said Prashker, who joined the firm in 2000 as a partner, specializing in intellectual property law, technology and Internet law, health care and nonprofits. "In any organization, things have changed for women, there is no doubt about that, and it's true at any business in Berkshire County."

Levinson, who has worked closely with Cohen on many criminal matters, could not be reached for comment yesterday. Whether she would join the departing partners was not clear.

Cain Hibbard associate Christopher Hennessey practices criminal law for the firm as well, Prashker said.

Several other prominent partners have left the firm over the years: Burbank, a former family law attorney who established Burbank Mediation Services about 12 years ago; John Rogers, who is now corporate counsel for Berkshire Health Systems; and John A. Agostini, a medical malpractice specialist who is now a Superior Court judge.

"The business climate for the law firm is solid, and we're in very good shape and expect to be in good shape going forward," said Prashker. "We will continue to be one of the most diverse practices in Western Massachusetts."

Both Cain, Hibbard and the new firm, Cohen, Kinne, Valicente & Cook, will maintain offices in Pittsfield and Great Barrington, as they do now.

After Jan. 1, the most senior partner at Cain, Hibbard will be F. Sydney Smithers IV, who has been with the firm for 37 years and has built a strong practice in real estate, zoning and land

"We will continue to rely on him for his wisdom and experience," said Prashker.

To reach Ellen G. Lahr:, (413) 496-6240.


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