Leonard Stein started at data management company Splunk Inc. in April 2011 as the company's general counsel and only lawyer. Since then, he's hired nine more and is looking now for another two.
Silicon Valley's tech giants are also hiring. A quick search of the websites for Google Inc., Facebook Inc., Apple Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. show that all have at least five openings for attorneys.
It's a good time to look for an in-house job. Technology companies across the region are seeking to trim their outside counsel costs by bringing more tasks in house. At the same time, many companies are creating larger business roles for their in-house lawyers, making the jobs more enticing to the Valley's entrepreneurial-minded lawyers.
"It's no longer as fun to practice at firms and more attorneys are looking at in-house roles," said Eric Whitaker, general counsel at flash memory maker SanDisk Corp. "The market is stronger than it's been in years."
The outlook is less rosy for outside counsel.
For the first time in three years, Altman Weil's annual Chief Legal Officer Survey found the number of companies reducing their outside counsel spend outnumbered those increasing it. Almost 40 percent of respondents spent less in 2012, compared to 34 percent who spent more. "The cost of outside firms is outrageous," said Robert Booth, an associate general counsel at HP, who joined that company through the troubled acquisition of mobile device maker Palm. "Since in-house salaries are not commensurate," companies are trying to do as much as possible themselves.
"The perspective is that large-firm rates are really high, and there is more of a focus on bringing work inside," said Peter Buckland, a partner in the Palo Alto office of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr who co-chairs the corporate, emerging company, venture capital and clean technology practices.
Of the law departments surveyed by Newtown Square, Pa.-based Altman Weil, 46 percent increased their internal budgets in 2012, compared to 28 percent reporting a decrease. Another 38 percent of companies plan to increase their in-house teams in the next year, compared to just 7 percent planning to downsize.
In the coming year, nearly twice as many companies, 29 percent of the Altman Weil survey respondents, said they plan to decrease their overall use of outside law firms, while 15 percent said they are planning an increase.
"There are a lot of partners with sky-high rates at larger firms and there is a definite trend toward building out in-house departments which can operate much more efficiently and cheaply," said Peter Redgrove, who runs Redgrove Legal Search in Los Angeles.