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Milwaukee’s Foley & Lardner opened an office this week in Palo Alto, making it the latest national firm to gain a foothold in Silicon Valley. One of the 25 largest law firms in the country, Foley & Lardner hopes to bolster its intellectual property, business transactions and life sciences practices with the new office, said Ralf-Reinhard Boer, the firm’s chairman and CEO, in a written statement. “Establishing a Silicon Valley presence is the next step in a strategic plan that the firm has followed for the past several years,” Boer said. Foley & Lardner opened its office Monday, close on the heels of Miami’s Greenberg Traurig, which is busy snatching up local lawyers for a new Silicon Valley office. As of mid-February, Greenberg had hired about nine attorneys — primarily top senior associates from firms like Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. During the boom of the late 1990s, homegrown, technology-focused firms ruled in Silicon Valley, leaving little room for national firms hoping for a piece of the action. Following the bubble burst, several of those homegrown firms have shrunk, merged or — like Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison and Skjerven Morrill — even gone out of business. As business ticks up this spring in the Valley, however, the large national firms that were forced to sit on the sidelines during the boom are moving in to take advantage of the market shift. Real estate prices are half of peak boom rates. The tight economy and post-Enron climate have also made clients more cautious and interested in hiring more established, conservative firms. “As a general counsel, if you hire a small patent boutique and they lose your patent litigation, you’re at risk of being fired,” said Gary Davis of San Francisco-based Patterson Davis Consulting, which specializes in recruiting for IP firms. “Whereas if you use a top-tier firm, you’ve been inoculated. You can say, �What more could I have done?’” Recent signs of economic recovery are, of course, an added attraction for firms like Foley & Lardner. However, that is merely part of the story, said Nancy Geenen, Foley’s managing partner for Northern California. Foley also has offices in San Francisco and Sacramento. “We have been looking to be in Silicon Valley for five or six years. We had a couple of close calls, but maybe it wasn’t the right economy and the right people. Here we have the people and the place at the same time.” Geenen will move to Palo Alto from Foley’s San Francisco office with partners Earl Ellisen and Ivonne King. Helping anchor the office will be Gerald Swiss, a veteran patent attorney formerly with Burns, Doane, Swecker & Mathis. Foley plans to expand the four-person office. The firm is recruiting “high-powered attorneys in IP” and lawyers of all levels to fill the Palo Alto office, Geneen said. The firm hopes to attract talent from Silicon Valley shops, she said, adding that Foley wants lawyers who fit in with its culture. “We have really strong integrity and a strong work ethic, and we overlay that with California cool.” The office will focus on serving clients in the electronics, semiconductor and software industries. The nearly 1,000-attorney Foley & Lardner had gross revenue of $489.5 million and profits per partner of $630,000 in 2002, putting it at No. 22 on Recorder affiliate The American Lawyer magazine’s list of the top 100 grossing firms in the United States.

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