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BOUTIQUE SAYS THE MERGER OFFERS SIMPLY SPILL FORTH Having a Silicon Valley address can get you noticed. Just ask John Montgomery. This month he got his 22nd inquiry from a law firm interested in merging with his corporate boutique. “That’s the most surprising thing about our little enterprise,” Montgomery said. “I had no idea we would attract such interest.” Montgomery’s seven-lawyer Menlo Park shop represents venture capital firms and young companies looking for venture backing. Montgomery said the firm has probably done about 100 venture capital financings since it opened in July 2003. The firm’s clients include AsiaTech Ventures, Draper International, Morgan Stanley & Co. and Technology Venture Partners. The firm’s suitors range from out-of-town firms that want to establish a Bay Area presence or build upon their San Francisco outpost to local firms looking to grow their corporate practice. Montgomery said the most recent inquiries came from a big Boston outfit and a national intellectual property firm that wants to add a corporate practice. So far, though, Montgomery is turning away the callers. “We’re just getting airborne and getting our culture established,” he said. “We’re having fun.” Montgomery launched the seven-lawyer firm with Joe Hayashi, who is now with Dorsey & Whitney, and Daniel Hansen. The three were partners together at the now-defunct Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison. During his three-year term at Brobeck, Montgomery served as co-leader of the firm’s business and technology practice and co-chair of the firm’s venture capital practice. He left Brobeck in mid-2002 and had a yearlong stint at Carr & Ferrell before hanging out his own shingle. Montgomery has been surprised at the expectations of firms looking to hook up with his. Some have told him they were looking for a partner with a $4 million to $5 million book of business. “The discussions ended quickly when I told them I didn’t have that anymore,” Montgomery said. But a year later some of them have come calling again. Montgomery said they found out that there aren’t many partners left in Silicon Valley who have a $5 million book of business. “Those that did are lucky to have a $1 million book of business now,” he said. While Montgomery’s book of business is now in the $1 million to $2 million range, he said he’s better off financially than he was at Brobeck. When he left in mid-2002 he had to write Brobeck a check to cover his share of the firm’s losses, which meant he didn’t earn anything his last six months there. He’s also among 200 former partners who have been sued by the trustee of Brobeck’s estate. The trustee claims the partners took money out of the firm when it was insolvent and should pay some of it back. Montgomery is almost free of the Brobeck quagmire, having taken up the trustee’s settlement offer. “I’ve basically settled,” he said, “subject to a formal agreement” and approval by the bankruptcy court. Montgomery doesn’t feel any pull to return to big-firm life and its fierce focus on the bottom line. “One of the things that becomes apparent in discussions with other firms is that they are still caught up in the pressure that come from profits-per-partner ranking,” he said. “Are there advantages of associating with a bigger firm? Sure. There are also advantages of being small. We can be Switzerland.” Brenda Sandburg STEELEY RESOLVE Holly Pranger wants the world to know that “porn squatting” is not OK. So last week the San Francisco solo sent out a press release telling people why the practice — which entails registering a Web site under a porn star’s name without authorization — should be avoided. The occasion was her recent victory for Lexington Steele, the “unprecedented three-time Adult Video News Male Performer of the Year,” according to the press release. His name was co-opted by a squatter who set up the Web site Through an arbitration before the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, Pranger won back Steele’s domain name. “Normally I wouldn’t put out a press release in connection with this, but Lexington Steele is a famous person,” she said. “This is a common problem in the industry for adult performers.” Pranger said porn performers and would-be squatters alike should know that a famous name is intellectual property gained both through common law and good will. “You take all of your blood and sweat and tears and you sum that up, and that’s your good will,” she said. Steele, it would seem, has plenty of good will thanks to a 700-film career highlighted by such works as “Hoochipalooza” and “Ebony Does Ivory 3.” An intellectual property specialist, Pranger said Steele is the first adult film star she’s represented, but likely not the last. “I really do think that they’re a targeted industry for squatting,” she said, largely because many actors aren’t aware of their rights. The process of retrieving a domain name, she said, is relatively simple: The arbitration is done by mail, and lawyers like Pranger often charge a flat fee for the proceeding. Now that Steele has his name back, Pranger said they’re considering filing suit against the squatter, Russian Communications. In the meantime, she’ll continue to take clients from all walks of life looking to protect their good names. – Justin Scheck

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