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For months now, the hype and hopes generated by Google’s impending public stock offering have captivated the financial world’s attention. Closer to home, the Internet company has cast a spell on the legal profession, with many lawyers drooling over the possibility of working in house at the so-called Googleplex in Mountain View, California. Indeed, the allure of working at the world’s most popular Internet search company — no doubt abetted by the potential for stock option riches — has made Google’s legal department the hottest place to work in Silicon Valley. But even if the company is on a hiring spree, actively taking steps to expand its army of in-house lawyers, getting in at Google remains a daunting challenge. Even attorneys with top-shelf credentials and connections inside the company have been reporting cold-shoulder treatment. With resumes pouring into its offices, Google has hired its own in-house legal recruiter to oversee attorney hiring, a practice that other recruiters say is virtually unheard of. Anne Kerwin, the Menlo Park recruiter who is working for Google, could not be reached for comment recently. Some recruiters in the region estimate that Kerwin is likely receiving hundreds of resumes for each available position at the company. Attorneys are “very interested in the possibility of being in one of the last great startup companies and to relive a little of the boom,” says one associate who knows several people who have applied for jobs at Google. Already, tales of friends and colleagues applying for a job at Google have become ingrained in the local legal folklore. Typically, the stories do not have happy endings. One associate at a Bay Area firm recounts making two separate attempts to get a job at Google. The first time around, the associate mailed his resume in response to an ad the company had posted but heard nothing back. Months later, after learning that an attorney he worked with at his previous firm was working in house at Google, he tried again. Once more, his efforts failed to yield so much as an interview. Another associate at a large Silicon Valley firm got the brush-off after advancing relatively deep into the interview process. “I went through a couple of rounds before getting dinged,” laments the associate. Demand obviously outstrips supply. But the company’s legal department is nevertheless expanding at a singular pace. “Every time I turn around there’s a new lawyer,” says Carmen Chang, a partner at Shearman & Sterling’s Menlo Park office who represents Google in Asia. A Google spokesperson declined to comment for the story, refusing even to divulge the headcount in the company’s legal department, citing the Securities and Exchange Commission’s pre-IPO quiet period. According to some estimates, the legal department currently stands at about 40 attorneys. Google’s Web site recently listed seven open attorney positions, including jobs involving corporate, intellectual property and litigation matters. While some in-house attorneys work as generalists, Google seems to favor a more regimented division of labor, requiring a greater number of attorneys to staff various practice areas. As the company prepares to go public, it has all the legal needs of a major corporation, in addition to a unique set of circumstances. Google’s search-based advertising service, which accounted for 95 percent of the company’s revenue in 2003, faces a number of crucial legal tests. Several companies have sued Google, alleging that its practice of linking keyword search results to advertisements violates their trademarks. Overture Services, now owned by Yahoo Inc., has also sued Google on the grounds that the search-based advertising service infringes on its patent. “They’re going to have some real legal challenges going forward,” says David Moyer, an intellectual property litigator at San Francisco’s Wineberg, Simmonds & Narita. “They will keep a lot of litigators busy as well as deal lawyers.” Joining the Google team is a long process. A successful candidate can easily be subjected to as many as six rounds of interviews before getting hired. “They’re very picky and selective about the types of personality they’re looking for,” says the associate who was rejected after several rounds of interviews, noting that the company seemed particularly interested in ensuring that an applicant will “mesh” well with his or her team. To be sure, the cultural fit of a job applicant is not unheard of at law firms. But at Google, it is apparently of prime importance. The company prides itself on its culture and lifestyle, and its corporate Web site is replete with details about the rich intellectual discourse that its diverse employees engage in. “Practice law Google-style,” reads the section of Google’s Web site that focuses on legal recruiting. “Come work at a place where you can help define precedents, rather than just follow them.” Julie Brush, co-founder of Solutus Legal Search, a recruiting firm, says Google is also known for being very credential-conscious, both in terms of law schools and work experience. But, she adds, Google can afford to be picky. “They’re very attractive to a lot people,” says Brush. “When you’re in that situation, you’re in a position where you can be very selective about who you bring on. You also have some leverage with regard to the compensation you pay people.” A lower salary, of course, can easily be outweighed by the lure of stock options in a company whose IPO is expected to result in a market value of at least $20 billion. It’s unclear whether every attorney at the company automatically receives stock options as part of the compensation package. The company’s Web site notes that new employees are recommended for stock options, the price of which is based on the fair market value as determined by the board of directors. Stock option grants at this late stage in the company’s development are likely not as generous as those given to earlier hires. And as enchanting as the Google siren call is, some note that it’s only drawing a limited segment of attorneys. Unlike during the dot-com boom when lawyers from all practices abandoned their firms for the promise of in-house riches, the current desire to work at Google appears largely limited to attorneys with a focus on IP and technology companies. With memories of stock market losses still fresh, the general populace of law firm attorneys remains wary of in-house dreams. Even among tech-centric attorneys there is skepticism. The associate whose colleagues interviewed with Google notes that many left with a bad taste in their mouths, turned off by what seemed to be a disorganized, Wild West environment within the legal department. Moreover, the company’s vaunted culture and lifestyle hold less appeal since many attorneys expect things will change once the company becomes publicly owned. “What you’re buying into now,” says this associate, “is not what it’s going to be a year from now.” Alexei Oreskovic is a reporter at The Recorder who writes about corporate law departments and other matters.

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