Amid the recent turmoil that has seen banks with public finance departments exit the municipal market, a number of well known public finance law firms have been adding staff.

Yesterday, Chapman and Cutler LLP announced the hiring of Gisele Rainer as a public finance partner in the San Francisco office. Rainer will help the firm expand its business on the West Coast, a region she covered as an attorney at Nixon Peabody LLP.

In mid-May, McKee Nelson announced the hiring of Michael Desmond to head its tax practice. Desmond had been the Treasury Department's tax legislative counsel for the past three and a half years. He returns to McKee, where he had been a partner before entering public service, and will work out of the firm's New York City office.

"Mike Desmond is highly regarded by clients, peers, and government officials for the breadth and depth of his tax law expertise and his integrity," McKee Nelson managing partner William Nelson said in a statement. "He was a very talented tax litigator when he left our firm to join the Treasury and returns with broad experience and deep insight into the tax policy-making and controversy resolution processes."

In the same week, Nixon Peabody hired Prem Malali as a project finance partner focused on the energy sector. Malali will also be based in the firm's New York City office.

The hires will expand the law firms' presence in public finance and project finance markets. Rainer joins a group of about 80 public finance bankers at Chapman and Cutler, Malali joins about 40 attorneys in the Nixon Peabody project finance practice, and Desmond will oversee 62 attorneys in the tax group, the vast majority of whom will be based in Washington, D.C.

"The idea of me going up to New York was a mutual idea," Desmond said. "It's closer to the client base that I think I'll be working with and a lot of the emerging tax issues."

He expects to work with clients in financial services, on issues relating to financial products with both domestic and international tax implications, as well as issues of tax-exemption related to the municipal bond market among others.

Malali will help Nixon Peabody in its energy practice, which involves a lot of work in alternative energy. Already the firm has helped developers, investment and commercial banks, and private equity investors in evaluating, developing, and financing projects for wind, biomass, and biodiesel among others, said Scott Singer, a partner with the project finance team.

"Prem is a great hire for us," Singer said. "He adds great depth to our energy project finance team and adds more international experience to the group."

Rainer is a well known west coast public finance attorney who has worked on a number of innovative and well known deals, according to a release. Her addition will help Chapman and Cutler expand beyond its Midwestern roots, it said.

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