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Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian, the Menlo Park-based firm declared as good as dead by some observers after the Internet bust, is opening a new office this week in San Diego. And it is launching the new outpost with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati partners Gari Cheever and Jeffrey Higgins and senior associate Ilan Lovinsky. All three joined Gunderson Dettmer as partners. Wilson trumpeted the opening of its own San Diego office at the end of 2004. The recent defection to Gunderson Dettmer leaves Wilson with 11 partners in San Diego, six of whom split their time with other offices. A Wilson spokesperson did not respond when asked for comment. But at least one observer isn’t reading too much into the move. “I have no reason to think this is a reflection of Wilson in San Diego,” says legal recruiter Gary Davis. “San Diego is the third-largest market for [venture capital] activity after Silicon Valley and Boston,” said Robert Gunderson Jr., the firm’s founder. “It has always been a logical thing for us to do.” Although it isn’t clear yet if other lawyers from Wilson will be joining, Gunderson said he expected to soon have six lawyers and several paralegals in the San Diego office. The 100-lawyer firm, which also has offices in New York and Boston, counsels entrepreneurs and venture capitalists and represents public and private companies in deal work. The Wilson attorneys’ recent move to Gunderson Dettmer reunites old partners from the days of the now-defunct Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison. Gunderson and his partners, who broke from Brobeck in 1995 to found a new firm, had worked there with both Cheever and Higgins. Higgins also practiced at Gunderson Dettmer from 1997 to 2000. “There are some long-standing friendships and business relationships,” Higgins said. “This was an opportunity to come home.” “Gunderson is doing extremely well, and the market down here is robust and growing,” he added. Although Gunderson Dettmer prefers to keep a low profile, it might be one of the Bay Area’s most profitable firms. After the technology bubble burst, it slipped off the Am Law 200 list. But according to a December 2005 article by Recorder affiliate The American Lawyer, the firm now boasts profits per partner of $1.1 million. “What’s great is to see the Gunderson folk made it through the downturn and made it to the other side and that they are thriving and growing,” says legal recruiter Gary Davis. “They are actively recruiting here locally.” Legal recruiter Larry Watanabe agrees. “Gunderson [in the Bay Area] is doing very well now,” he said. But he warned that his home turf of San Diego can be rough. Latham & Watkins, Morrison & Foerster, Cooley Godward and Heller Ehrman dominate in San Diego, says Watanabe. Meanwhile, other national firms � among them Jones Day, McDermott, Will & Emery, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges � haven’t managed to grow offices here beyond 25 lawyers. In Wilson’s case, they have 30 lawyers and two patent agents. “Over-lawyered is what this city is all about,” agrees Craig Andrews, another former Brobeck attorney now at Heller Ehrman. “People are all chasing the same clients.” The other problem for firms, Watanabe says, is that good lawyers in the area are in short supply. “Where do you go from here? Where do you go for talent?” For now, Gunderson isn’t setting any long-term numerical goals. The firm has leased enough space to double the number of lawyers it now has in San Diego, he says.

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