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Despite the economic downturn in 2008, law firms have opened new offices at a brisk pace so far this year. Dozens of law firms have planted flags on the West Coast, in the Midwest and the South, with a noticeable absence of expansion on the East Coast during the first half of 2008. Much of the growth has come from large, but not huge, law firms looking to fill in the gaps of their service coverage. Although 2008 so far isn’t the year of massive merger announcements or megafirm ribbon-cuttings, law firms have continued to spread out at a healthy rate. “You do it because it makes sense, regardless of the economy,” said Nancy Bertoglio, managing partner of Chicago’s Bell, Boyd & Lloyd. The 263-attorney law firm opened an office in San Diego earlier this year with six attorneys and seven technical specialists. The work focuses on life sciences and intellectual property matters. Bell Boyd is one of several law firms expanding on the West Coast so far this year. Bryan Cave, with its largest office in St. Louis, opened a San Francisco location in March. The 847-attorney law firm already had California offices in Santa Monica and Irvine. Also opening a San Francisco office was Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, a 392-attorney labor and employment law firm with roots in the Southeast. Still another law firm branching out to the West Coast was Roseland, N.J.-based Lowenstein Sandler. In May, the 271-attorney firm announced it was opening a Palo Alto, Calif., office focusing on venture capital and technology.

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