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Los Angeles-based Latham & Watkins has been beefing up its European presence again, adding 25 lawyers over the past two years to its London office. The addition of the new lawyers, who include British and American attorneys from local and U.S. firms, brings the 14-year-old office to 85 attorneys. Boosting the office’s employment, intellectual property and technology transactions practices, the expansion has also put Latham in a position to grab a share of Europe’s growing venture capital market. Over the past year, the office has worked on a half-dozen early stage venture deals, many involving software companies. While a loosening investment climate in Europe is driving a surge in deals, one of Latham’s new hires has played a key role in the firm’s ability to capture the VC work. Charles Fuller, a British partner from London-based Simmons & Simmons, joined the office just over a year ago, where among other things he works in its fledgling VC practice. Silicon Valley-based Latham partner Alan Mendelson said the firm’s London office handled zero private deals before hiring Fuller. “There wasn’t anybody in London who focused on emerging companies. Historically our London office did more M&A work,” Mendelson said. Martha Klein, former editor of London-based Legal Business magazine and now a consultant at Palo Alto-based Mlegal Consulting, said Latham is making a mark in Europe. “Latham has been more aggressive than any other American law firm recently in investing in top-quality U.K. lawyers, and this has paid off as the firm captures more clients and more deals.” For Fuller, the appeal of jumping to Latham was the “strength of its practice in Silicon Valley and � the firm’s commitment to growth in Europe.” Working with Fuller on VC deals is former Simmons & Simmons colleague Martin Saywell, who joined Latham a few months after Fuller’s arrival. Latham also lured partners, of counsel and associates from British firms including Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy, Ashurst Morris Crisp and Freshfields. American firms such as Shearman & Sterling have also lost lawyers to Latham’s London practice in the past two years. In 2003, Latham expanded elsewhere in Europe, leasing and remodeling new offices in Paris, Frankfurt and Brussels. The firm currently has 272 lawyers in Europe. Four of the London office’s six new deals were initiated by Benchmark Europe, an affiliate of Benchmark Capital, an existing Latham client. Benchmark Europe began using the firm’s European services in 2003. “Benchmark thinks there are some benefits to having the same firm represent Benchmark U.S. and Benchmark Europe,” said Patrick Pohlen, the Silicon-Valley based Latham partner who brought Benchmark to the firm as a client in 2001. Latham represented Benchmark and U.S.-based Atlas Venture in the recent $18 million spinoff of software maker Kalido from its parent company, Shell Services International. According to statistics from Venture One/Ernst & Young, the number of deals involving European venture-backed companies hit a low in fall 2003, with 233 deals. In the last quarter of 2003, the number of deals bounced up slightly to 249, a 6 percent increase. That contrasts with the high of 712 deals in the first quarter of 2001. Other firms are also seeing an increase in European VC deals. “In the last 12 to 18 months, maybe 80 percent of my new clients are from Europe or are deals that involve Europe,” said Silicon-Valley based Pillsbury Winthrop partner Lior Nuchi. Nuchi, who represents foreign technology companies, said the bulk of his work in the past decade has come from Israel, China, Taiwan and Japan. “[In Europe] there wasn’t this culture of doing startups. That’s rapidly changing. I’ve got three high-quality startups out of Paris — all semi-conductors,” he said. Nuchi said many European startups involve cutting-edge cellular telephony devices and services. London-based Morrison & Foerster partner Kristian Wiggert said he has witnessed “some pick up” in recent months, particularly in life science deals. “London is the center of gravity. Most of the investment is in London, but the money gets spread out all over Europe.”

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