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Out-of-town firms keep trekking into the Bay Area. Of the 200 top-grossing firms in the country, 57 of those based outside the Bay area have offices here. While New York firms have the biggest presence — 18 have outposts in San Francisco or Silicon Valley — a growing number are coming from other regions. Eager to establish a national reputation, they see the Bay Area as a key destination point. “California is viewed as an attractive market because it commands higher billing rates and is viewed as a gateway to the Pacific Rim,” said legal consultant Peter Zeughauser. “Historically firms that entered Los Angeles had trouble and left. San Francisco has been more receptive, easier to get into.” In the past year, several firms have gained a ready-made practice by merging with old-line Bay area firms. In the biggest deal, McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen joined with Boston’s Bingham Dana to form Bingham McCutchen. Other outsiders have swallowed up smaller Bay Area firms. Minneapolis-based Dorsey & Whitney merged with intellectual property boutique Flehr Hohbach Test Albritton & Herbert in April. Last year Portland’s Stoel Rives fused with Washburn, Briscoe & McCarthy; Rochester, N.Y.-based Nixon Peabody combined with Lillick & Charles; and Philadelphia’s Drinker Biddle & Reath merged with product liability boutique Preuss Shanagher Zvoleff & Zimmer. In 2000 Cleveland-based Squire, Sanders & Dempsey took over the defunct Graham & James. The trend began about eight years ago. Milwaukee’s Foley & Lardner, Tampa, Fla.-based Holland & Knight, Minneapolis’ Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly and Seattle’s Perkins Coie all started out here by acquiring small Bay Area firms. A bunch of firms have opted to send in their own crew of attorneys rather than marry into the region. Boston’s Ropes & Gray is one of the latest arrivals. Partner John Chesley II and five associates put out a shingle in San Francisco in December. “We’ve had clients in San Francisco and the Bay Area for many years, so it’s a natural growth to be present in the marketplace,” Chesley said. He said the office is focusing on three of the firm’s strengths — investment management, healthcare and life sciences and private equity work for buyout funds. Stanford University is one of its long-standing clients. Ropes & Gray put together and then took apart Stanford’s joint venture with UC-San Francisco. Pittsburgh’s Kirkpatrick & Lockhart is also focusing on specific areas of work in its San Francisco office, such as representing financial institutions in mutual and hedge-fund work. The firm opened in San Francisco in the spring of 2000 with a few attorneys and has grown to 28. Washington, D.C.’s Covington & Burling moved into San Francisco three years ago intent to carve out a niche in the hot intellectual property field. While IP remains a major focus of the office, S.F. partner Sonya Winner said the practice has diversified. The office has built a corporate practice and handles a variety of litigation, including IP, commercial and white-collar crime cases. The office has grown from seven to 22 and has three associates coming on board this fall. Having local digs has been a boon for Covington & Burling’s recruitment efforts, Winner said. “We’ve had unbelievable success in recruiting people at Boalt [Hall School of Law],” she said. “We’ve always recruited from the school, but most [graduates] want to stay in the area so we haven’t had much access to them.” In the future, however, there’s sure to be more competition for both attorneys and clients. “A number of firms are still looking to get into San Francisco,” Zeughauser said. “It’s a good place to go to build critical mass and increase revenue and profits.” See related article: Second City Players See related chart: Windy City Presence In The Bay Area

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