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Perhaps the cure for the post-tech bust blues can be found at the corner of 15th and I streets N.W. in Washington. Cooley Godward just opened an office there. It’s a prime address-and one that screams “The Establishment.” Most of the city’s powerful law and lobbying firms call the neighborhood home. So what is a darling of the dot-com boom like Palo Alto, Calif.-based Cooley doing in a place like this? Recapturing some of its technology bubble glory, it hopes. Though the Washington office is still very small (just seven lawyers), Cooley is aiming for a share of some of the meat-and-potatoes antitrust and government work that dominates Washington. As Stephen Neal, the firm’s chief executive, puts it: “The firm’s strategic plan used to be to go to markets and replicate what we do [in California].” That’s not the case anymore. ‘Old economy’ views Cooley-make that Neal-has a plan: to transform the firm from a solid Silicon Valley player into a national powerhouse by shedding some of its techcentric image and aggressively pursuing corporate and litigation work for large public-company clients. In other words: the opposite of the emerging-company deals that revved the firm’s financial engine during the boom. That’s not to say Neal is looking to abandon the firm’s tech base. But the “old economy” is suddenly looking very good to Cooley. There are some major hitches, of course. Cooley has few lawyers outside California. It spent the last three years trying-and failing-to find a merger partner. Its corporate side is still dominated by technology-based transactional work. Although some of the scars from the dot-com bust have faded-profits per partner are up-it can’t quite shake the label “first firm to lay off associates after the stock market tanked.” But after three years of on-again, off-again merger talks with a number of firms, and with the Northern California market doing better than it has since 2000, Neal exudes optimism. “We’ve concluded the better course is to go it alone. I don’t want us to continue looking and talking to firms. It’s a distraction at some point. Our economics are strong. We are in a position to do a lot domestically,” he said. While Neal paints the firm’s big-picture strategy, Mark Pitchford, the chief operating officer, focuses on the day-to-day tasks of firm management, doing everything from picking the color of the carpet to drawing up laterals’ compensation packages. Neal bills about 1,800 to 2,000 hours a year, and estimates he spends another 500 on management duties, but says, “I’m not very disciplined about recording nonclient time.”

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