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Boston-based Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo wants to make a big push into California, and it is getting started with the acquisition of the Palo Alto-based Reed Intellectual Property Law Group. Dianne Reed and her three partners say they will merge their patent prosecution shop into Mintz as of May 1. Mintz is also working to hire groups in San Diego and Los Angeles, where the 450-lawyer firm already has a two-person office. “This is just the start,” said Steven Rosenthal, co-managing member at Mintz Levin. “We have made a decision to establish this office in Palo Alto and begin to build out a more significant presence in California more broadly.” The acquisition comes as several Boston firms target the California market. Goodwin Procter says it plans to open in San Francisco as early as this summer, and may also set up shop in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr established an office last July in Palo Alto. And Ropes & Gray, which first opened in San Francisco in 2001, acquired Palo Alto-based Fish & Neave in January 2005. “Increasingly, out-of-city firms are encroaching on the practices of the Boston firms, and Boston firms are looking to expand their practice bases,” says Tower Snow, the former chairman of now-defunct Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison who is launching his own consulting outfit. Mintz’s Rosenthal says the firm wants to be in California to better serve its roster of biotechnology clients, which includes such companies as StemCells Inc., Merck, 454 Life Sciences and Neuromolecular Pharmaceuticals Inc. He adds that the firm is interested in picking up corporate, IP and litigation attorneys in groups of 100 or less. The firm is less interested in growing by large-scale merger. “We are not simply trying to add numbers,” said Rosenthal. “We are not trying to be a 4,000-lawyer firm.” Reed, a long-time patent attorney, has a long roster of clients, including SRI International, Bayer Healthcare LLC, IBM, California Institute of Technology and Labcyte Inc. She brings with her three partners — Carol Schneider, Flavio Rose and Karen Canaan — as well as an associate and a patent agent, and possibly also a contract attorney and paralegal. “I just found that more and more frequently, potential clients that have come to me are preferring to work with general practice firms where they have one-stop shopping,” she said. “For me personally, I am providing all of us with an opportunity to work with lawyers who provide complementary expertise, who can take on matters we can’t.” A bigger question mark for Reed, however, was finding the right cultural fit. She originally practiced at Ciotti & Murashige, a patent boutique that was acquired first by L.A.-based Irell & Manella in the 1980s and then by Morrison & Foerster in 1991. That didn’t work out either, and she left MoFo in 1992 and established a partnership with colleague Roberta Robins. That partnership split up, as did another with long-time colleague Karl Bozicevic. “I am a little gun shy and I felt that I needed to choose very carefully,” she says. Reed said she picked Mintz because of its past success with opening branch offices and because the firm seemed to do a good job of integrating IP attorneys. Nonetheless, the firm may have competition. “The problem for Boston firms coming to Silicon Valley is that ironically it is a lot like Boston,” says Snow. Historically, he says both markets are tight-knit and tough to crack for newcomers, unless they are offering something very different, for instance the high-end M&A of the Wall Street firms. Wilmer Cutler partner Curtis Mo said the firm now has 20 lawyers here since opening last July in Palo Alto. Legal recruiter Larry Watanabe, who helped bring Reed to the firm, said that Mintz has been looking around for a group in California since 2004. “The strength of the life sciences in the Bay Area is a major draw for the Boston firms, as well as their corporate venture base practices,” Watanabe said.

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