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In a practice area where tenacious courtroom presence doesn’t count for much, being able to grease the wheels of a slow-moving bureaucracy goes a long way. So it is with corporate immigration, where successful advocacy is often measured by the incremental progress attained at meetings with the government. That’s what makes Warren Leiden, of San Francisco’s 15-lawyer Berry, Appleman & Leiden, so valuable. “If you’re looking for someone to sit at the table with you with government officials, Warren’s the guy,” says Carl Falstrom, a San Francisco solo who used to work for Leiden. Falstrom describes Leiden as nice, approachable and able to make clients feel that everything is going to be OK. Leiden comes by his acumen honestly. He’s been meeting with officials longer than he’s been representing clients. Before joining Berry, Appleman, he was the executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. That job, which he held for 24 years, had him in Washington, D.C., lobbying on behalf of corporate immigration attorneys. For part of that time, he sat on the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, which was created in 1990 to evaluate U.S. immigration policy for Congress. By 1996, Leiden said, it was time to leave Washington for the Bay Area. “I was eager to practice what I had been preaching,” said Leiden, 54. Now, his Washington experience allows the firm to give clients an inside line on federal immigration policy, something Leiden says is essential for a complete practice. This time of year, he spends more than half of each month in the firm’s Virginia office trying to keep up with the final machinations of the legislative session. He joined Berry, Appleman just in time to help shepherd its growth during the dot-com boom. Although the firm had grown up with Silicon Valley, nothing compared to the late 1990s. In 1996, Leiden was the firm’s fifth attorney. At the height of the boom five years later, the firm had ballooned to 29 lawyers. Like others, though, Berry, Appleman had to shrink back down to a reasonable size. Most of that was done through attrition, but there was one reduction last year in which several attorneys were forced to leave, something Leiden said was like “a death in the family.” But now things are looking up again, Leiden said, and the firm is currently recruiting for a 16th lawyer. “We’re kind of in our return to normalcy,” he said. “We’re ready for growth, and we’ve seen a little bit of it and we’re ready for more.”

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