It’s not easy being an effective general counsel when most of your time is spent hobnobbing with politicos. That’s what Keith Gottfried, the top lawyer for Borland Software Corporation, discovered when he found himself traveling around the world on official trade missions and schmoozing with President George Bush at his Crawford, Texas, ranch. So, in October, Gottfried shed his general counsel title and took on the newly created job of senior vice president of corporate affairs at Scotts Valley, California-based Borland.

To fill Gottfried’s shoes, Borland hired Timothy Stevens, a veteran Silicon Valley lawyer who had spent six years building a legal department at Inktomi Corporation, a Foster City, California, developer of Web search technology. Inktomi was sold to Yahoo! Inc., for $235 million earlier this year, and after the deal closed, Stevens, 37, was out of a job. He spent the next few months working for Fios, Inc., a legal technology company, where he still serves as a director. The Borland opportunity arose this summer, through a headhunter.

In his new job, Stevens oversees nine lawyers stationed in the United States, Europe, and Brazil. He says he’s focused on managing the company’s increasingly complex contracts, protecting its intellectual property, and ensuring good corporate ethics. A 1991 graduate of the University of California-Davis School of Law, Stevens got his start at Palo Alto’s Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati. In 1997 Inktomi, a client, lured him in-house. “Everybody thought I was crazy [at the time],” recalls Stevens. The company’s revenues jumped from about $6 million to $230 million at its peak in 2000. By then, Stevens, the company’s first in-house lawyer, had about ten lawyers working for him. But unlike other high-tech companies that cratered when the dot-coms went bust, Inktomi survived long enough to develop a decent product. Inktomi devised an Internet search engine that Yahoo bought in its bid to compete with Web search site Google, Inc. “We had a nice ride,” says Stevens.

Gottfried, who holds a J.D. and an MBA from Boston University, joined Borland in 2000 from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. The company made him an offer shortly after he worked on its failed merger with Corel Corporation. At Borland, the 37-year-old says he spent a lot of time rebuilding a law department that had been decimated by corporate belt-tightening and defections to dot-coms. Gottfried gradually became more of a lobbyist for Borland, developing ties to Republican leaders and effectively becoming the company’s unofficial Beltway ambassador. He’s been on trade missions to Morocco, Egypt, Mexico, China, and, in late October, traveled to Bangkok as part of President Bush’s visit to Asia. Gottfried’s goal in his new job is simple, he says: promote Borland in government circles and, in turn, drive corporate sales.

When Gottfried stepped down as GC, he held four titles at Borland. He readily acknowledges that the demands of corporate development and running a law department became too much. Plus, he was ready for a new challenge. “I’ve developed a lot of relationships in Washington and have met the president a bunch of times,” he says. “It seems every other day that a government official calls me and says the president wants to send [me] on another trade mission.” Gottfried even added his mother’s name to Borland’s press release list so she would be updated on his whereabouts.

Gottfried clearly relishes his new role. He’s working on President Bush’s reelection campaign and former U.S. secretary of the Treasury Rosario Marin’s possible bid for the Senate in 2004. Gottried has become so enamored of the political life that he says he might run himself. His likely objective? A congressional seat.