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Following Cooley Godward’s third round of staff layoffs in four months, associates and staff at the firm are worried that bigger cuts may be coming before the end of the year. Cooley laid off five secretaries and five paralegals in Palo Alto on Nov. 1, apparently without informing the partners they worked for. The firm also told attorneys and staff Monday that it was closing its office on Sand Hill Road, which it has touted as being in the heart of the venture capital community. The nine attorneys in that office will be moving to Cooley’s Hanover Street office in Palo Alto. “It was a pure real estate decision,” said Cooley Chief Operating Officer Mark Pitchford. “We had available space in the Hanover office, and we were coming up on our renewal option [for Sand Hill Road] and decided not to exercise it.” Pitchford declined to discuss the staff layoffs and would not comment on associate and staff speculation that more layoffs may be coming soon. “I’m not talking about what was in essence a private personnel decision,” he said. But it’s clear that Cooley’s corporate practice, like many in the Valley, remains moribund, and as firm managers make budgeting decisions for the next year, they may be facing some tough staffing choices. The staff layoff on Friday seemed to come as a surprise to associates and several partners alike. Some also expressed concern about the impending departure of partner Tharan “Greg” Lanier. The head of litigation in Cooley’s Palo Alto office and the partner in charge of associateassignments, Lanier submitted his resignation Monday and is set to join Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue. Neither Lanier nor the partner in charge of Jones, Day’s Menlo Park office could be reached for comment. But one associate said his resignation has hurt firm morale. “The associates are quite upset about it,” the associate said. “He is well liked.” The staff cuts, however, have had the greatest impact, creating fear of further layoffs among associates and staff. “We’re all worried that the boss is going to tap us on the shoulder and we’ll be gone,” said one paralegal. “There is a feeling there is going to be a big layoff of associates, secretaries and paralegals.” One associate said people began fretting in September when Cooley laid off two associates, three paralegals and a staffer from its immigration group. Prior to that, in June the firm cut five associates and five staff in its Kirkland, Wash., office. “Plenty of corporate associates have gotten a talk from management that it would be better to find a situation elsewhere,” the associate said. But if layoffs are in the works, the news hasn’t filtered through the partnership ranks. “I haven’t heard anything yet, but I think all firms are trying to figure out what the next step is,” said a partner, who like most of the lawyers and staffers quoted for this story would only speak on condition of anonymity. “I don’t know what management is thinking these days.” Other partners emphasized that Cooley is doing well despite the continued slow pace of corporate work and that the litigation group is going great guns. “It’s a tough economy for everybody,” one Cooley partner said. “We’re doing fine given all that. � There’s no doubt we’ll get stronger than ever.” As for the recent staff layoff, the partner downplayed the fact that management failed to inform the partnership ranks of the decision. “Sure, it would have been nice to know ahead of time exactly who was affected,” he said. “But it was a minor issue.” Partners also described the closing of the Sand Hill office as no big deal. Opened in 1988, the nine-attorney Sand Hill Road outpost is in the heart of the venture capital community and focuses exclusively on venture capital and startup work. On Monday, Cooley Chairman Stephen Neal sent out a firmwide e-mail announcing that the firm was not renewing its Sand Hill Road lease and that attorneys and staff from the office would be moving to the Hanover office, which houses corporate attorneys and administrative staff. The firm has a third Silicon Valley office at Palo Alto Square. “There’s a slight advantage of being down the block from the venture capitalists versus five minutes away,” one partner said. “But it made sense to combine the offices.”

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