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It used to be that clients of Internet start-ups and San Francisco office space packed a recruiting punch. Not so anymore. Just ask Venture Law Group, one of the law firms synonymous with the tech boom and bust, which has emptied out its San Francisco office. The 12 lawyers who were working in the tony Pier 1 building along the Embarcadero aren’t out of a job, nor has the firm pulled out of the Bay Area market — two scenarios that often take place when firms quit the city. Instead, the S.F. office workers just face a longer commute. Now they have to trek to the firm’s Menlo Park headquarters on Sand Hill Road — just what they were hoping to avoid when they volunteered to staff the San Francisco office in the first place. Donald Keller Jr., the VLG partner who manages the firm’s operations, said that since the firm has shrunk to about 70 lawyers — from a high of some 110 — the firm simply didn’t need all of its space. The San Francisco space, which the firm opened in July 2001, could have housed up to 40 lawyers but at most, the firm staffed it with 15, Keller said. Still, he defends the firm’s move. “It was a great idea,” Keller said. “We had a lot of lawyers who wanted to be in San Francisco, and we had a lot of clients there.” The firm started negotiating with its landlord last month and was able to work out a confidential deal that let VLG out of its lease, Keller said. The firm has been creative with its office space before, building something of a revenue center out of its longtime lease on space over the venerable Mayfield Fund in Menlo Park. Inked back in 1993, the lease came relatively cheap for VLG. During the tech boom, the firm subleased the space to Charles River Ventures for a pretty price. Keller said that, too, is confidential.

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