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Chart: Partner Classes Making partner at a big law firm may be growing more difficult, but a small handful of Bay Area lawyers are still getting there on a relatively quick basis. At least seven of the Bay Area lawyers promoted to partner at large firms this year are only six years out of law school. And another 20, or nearly one-quarter of the 81 new partners in a Recordersurvey, were only seven years out. “It was an honor to be named after practicing only six years,” said Gordon & Rees’ Charles Juliana, a 1997 graduate of San Francisco Law School. No matter how long it took, everyone who made partner this year was bucking the odds. “It’s harder to make partner in a firm these days,” said law firm management consultant Peter Zeughauser. “Firms are more wary of making a bet on people.” Juliana’s background in the construction industry gave him a head start. A civil engineer, Juliana worked in the industry for a decade, including as an expert witness, before attending night law school with the goal of becoming a construction litigator. “I was working with a lot of lawyers. There was some encouragement, and, frankly, some who tried to discourage me,” he laughed. While in school Juliana worked as an in-house consultant on construction issues for Gordon & Rees. By the time the firm made him an associate, he said, he was “more like a third-year lawyer.” A few lawyers who had originally planned different careers zipped to partnership in seven years once they realized law was their calling. Townsend and Townsend and Crew’s Annette Parent thought she would be a science professor. But after obtaining her Ph.D. in molecular biology, she became concerned that she would have limited flexibility, particularly geographically, in that profession. Then Parent happened to read a New York Timesarticle about Pennie & Edmonds hiring science advisers and sending them to law school to become patent lawyers. “I had an epiphany,” she said. “I looked at that article and said, ‘Wow, I could do that. And I would like doing that.’” Now, after seven years at Townsend, where her clients include the University of California and the National Institutes of Health, she’s in the partnership. “I’m pretty determined,” Parent said. “I don’t know that I imagined the time frame. But I did hope — plan — to be a partner in a law firm some day.” Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati’s Roger Chin followed a similar track. He enrolled in Yale University’s medical school, thinking he would be a doctor, but after a year, he decided to try Yale’s joint program in law and medicine. “I was interested in various health policy issues that were also tied up in legal issues,” Chin said. “I thought I’d get a law degree on the side.” But Chin found the law more interesting, and, upon graduating, became a first-year associate at Wilson Sonsini. He now works as a patent litigator handling medical device cases, among many others. “I think it does help” having the medical expertise, Chin said. “Working with experts is a big part of patent litigation.” While non-specialists are capable of ramping up their knowledge, Chin’s background “helps shorten the learning curve.” For Bingham McCutchen’s John Pernick, the road to partnership was less direct. But a brief detour helped him get back on track. While at the University of Michigan, Pernick had captained the sailing team. After getting his J.D. in 1991, Pernick spent a few years at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton but wasn’t certain that law was the career for him. “I was having some angst about what I was doing,” he said, and he missed having the time to sail competitively. In 1994 he made a deal with Sheppard to go on a part-time contract basis, so he could make a run at the U.S. Olympic sailing team. After two years of training, Pernick qualified for the Olympic trials in 1996. He didn’t make it to the Olympics, but the experience gave his career a boost. “I came back much more energized and interested in doing the law, having been away from it. I found I could take control of my law practice a bit more.” A computer scientist, Pernick began focusing more on technology litigation, and a few years ago made the jump to what is now Bingham McCutchen. He was elected to the firm’s partnership effective Jan. 1. One prominent associate to make partner this year was Morrison & Foerster’s Alison Tucher. She made headlines in 2003 by gaining freedom for Quedellis Ricardo Walker after she persuaded a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge — and the district attorney’s office — that Walker had spent 12 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Tucher represented Walker pro bono, and she didn’t worry about it affecting her election to partner. “Morrison & Foerster has a well-deserved reputation for supporting pro bono work,” she said, “and I know my partners were proud that we were able to make a difference in Rick Walker’s life.” Tucher clerked on the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals for Judge William Norris and on the U.S. Supreme Court for Justice David Souter. Before joining MoFo, she did a stint with the Santa Clara County DA. “I felt I had tremendous experience under my belt, but I wanted to try cases,” Tucher said. At MoFo she has handled a broad range of litigation, representing chip manufacturers, a satellite TV operator, biotech concerns and family businesses, among others. Tucher remembers how she learned that she had made partner. “I had just come back from cross-country skiing through a snowstorm. I got a message that I should call one of the partners, and I knew what the call was likely to be about. And I called back and got the great news.”

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