When Morrison & Foerster’s veteran intellectual property law partner Thomas Ciotti sat down at the MoFo energy group’s annual partners meeting in late October, it raised some eyebrows. “Everyone was eyeballing me, probably wondering if I got lost or something,” Ciotti recalls. Then the discussion turned to the most important agenda item — alternative energy — and suddenly Ciotti was on familiar ground. His eight-lawyer green-tech IP group, which counsels venture capitalists investing in renewable energy and environmental technology, has more alternative energy clients than the firm’s 50-lawyer energy practice.

The meeting was “a real eye-opener,” says Ciotti, who formed the green-tech IP practice in early 2006. “Not many lawyers have gotten into this yet.” And judging from what he has seen so far, he says, there’s potential for explosive growth in the field. “My group went from zero clients to more than half a dozen in less than a year,” he says.