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For law firms, Christmas really did come in July this year, when Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. With its host of expanded accounting, disclosure, and corporate governance rules, the law is a nightmare for business executives. But for firms suffering from the still-sluggish economy, the act is a golden opportunity to repackage their securities-related experience and, they hope, pick up some new business in the process. “If you’re a lawyer sitting around waiting for the capital markets to come back, or for your next M&A deal, you’ve got nothing to do,” explains Tracy Edmonson, a partner with Latham & Watkins in Los Angeles. Sarbanes-Oxley, Edmonson says, “has represented a huge wave of work.” Katharine Martin, a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Palo Alto, agrees: “I’ve been phenomenally busy, as busy as I can ever remember being.” Much of the work has arisen because the law is unclear about how its many mandates should be met. “I don’t think all of the implications of the bill have been fully understood yet,” says Martin. Firms lucky enough to employ SEC veterans are trotting them out in seminars, Webcasts, memorandums, and pitches for media coverage. Even firms with less-direct ties to the agency have aggressively pitched their securities knowledge, however. At press time Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton was scheduled to hold a “Corporate Governance Seminar” in New York. The Manhattan-based firm counts former SEC general counsel David Becker among its current partners, while ex-partner Giovanni Prezioso is the agency’s present GC. Boston’s Mintz, Levin, Cohen, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo conducted a seminar in D.C. in September, while Philadelphia’s Morgan, Lewis & Bockius rolled out events in several cities. Chicago-based Sidley Austin Brown & Wood held a client call on the new law in August, which, according to the firm, drew about 250 attendees. Other firms have responded by putting together new practice groups. One of the first out of the gate was Tampa’s Holland & Knight, which announced the formation of a corporate governance practice group the day after President George Bush signed Sarbanes-Oxley. Headed by Michael Jamieson, a corporate partner in Tampa, Holland’s group includes 30 lawyers specializing in securities, white-collar criminal defense, tax, and other matters. D.C.-based Venable, meanwhile, is assembling a Sarbanes-Oxley “SWAT team” led by former U.S. attorney general Benjamin Civiletti. The practice group strategy is popular because it allows a firm to combine disparate lawyers and specialties under an easily marketable umbrella. Mark Vecchio, the New York managing partner of San Francisco’s Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe, says that corporate governance is “the flavor of the month.” Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe is considering a similar practice group, according to David Geyer, the San Francisco firm’s marketing chief. But the trick is to figure out how to jump on the bandwagon and still appear distinctive. “It’s a question of how you position the firm without looking too ‘me too,’” Geyer says. Otis Bilodeau, Renee Deger, and Anthony Lin

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