Fenwick & West and Silicon Valley grew up together. As a firm that has historically placed a high value on collegiality and collaboration, partners have rarely left Fenwick in the past.
But as the number of firms in the San Francisco Bay Area increases — and as Fenwick’s tech industry clients jostle for power on the world stage — Fenwick’s laser-focused strategy is being put to the test. In 2018 alone, the firm watched 10 Bay Area partners walk out the door, seven who went to competing firms; two retired, and another became a judge in San Jose.
Fenwick isn’t the only indigenous firm feeling the pressure. Other San Francisco natives, including Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Cooley and Gunderson Dettmer, have seen higher levels of departures in recent years. A number of these partners were picked up by Goodwin Procter, a national firm that originated in Boston and is aggressively expanding in Silicon Valley.
While some of the Silicon Valley firms seem to have had their ups and downs in terms of partner headcount in recent years, Goodwin has had a steady increase through the lateral hires the firm has been making in the market. Goodwin, which opened its San Francisco in 2006 and Silicon Valley office in the following year, has about 160 lawyers in Northern California.