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BOSTON � Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman is throwing a clambake, while Heller Ehrman is organizing a reception at Fenway Park. Other law firms are flying in lawyers from other cities and hosting extravagant parties and receptions throughout Beantown. Why? They are all betting on a business development bonanza from the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) conference slated for Boston in May � one of the largest of its kind in the United States. And law firms are betting more than clambakes. Twenty-three firms are each shelling out $8,500 to $100,000 for various sponsorship opportunities during the May 6 through 9 event, according to Robbi Lycett, vice president of conventions & conferences at Washington-based BIO. “We have a commitment to the life science area and to the biotech area,” said Heller Ehrman’s Stephen Davis, chairman of the firm’s New York business practice. “Our feeling is that [this show] gives us a chance to really show our stuff. It certainly raises our visibility,” Davis said. Heller Ehrman is seeking a high profile among startup companies by sponsoring the emerging-company track at the conference. The sponsorship made sense in light of the firm’s organizational counseling, licensing work and commercial transactional work for startups, Davis said. iPods and contacts Boston’s Choate, Hall & Stewart is hosting a dinner for clients and prospects and hoping to drum up buzz at its exhibition booth by giving away an iPod nano music player each day of the conference. “It’s a little different than marketing things we’ve done in the past,” said intellectual property litigator Eric Marandett. “We’re trying to do what we can to leverage the industry contacts we already have.” The conference has grown so much in recent years � with 17,000 registered attendees and exhibitors at last count � that firms really need to target who they want to reach, said Karin Duncker, a New York-based nonlawyer who is the life sciences business development executive at Boston’s Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo. Besides sponsoring conference-related events and chairing a panel, Mintz is running a separate invitation-only event for biotech CEOs and executives and financial professionals they might want to connect with, such as bankers and venture capitalists. “What you do really have to look at is how to strategically focus your activities,” Duncker said. Fish & Richardson, the sole law firm that opted for the conference’s second-highest sponsorship category � no law firms are in the conference’s top sponsorship category � is also meeting with potential clients, hosting dinners and chairing two panels. The firm’s goals include boosting its name recognition and ultimately its biotechnology litigation work, said Boston-based patent attorney J. Peter Fasse. “We use the BIO meeting as a way to get the message out,” Fasse said. Even firms that aren’t sponsors have big plans for BIO. McDermott, Will & Emery lawyers are either participating in or chairing two panels and the firm is hosting an evening reception at a popular seafood restaurant. Raising awareness of the firm’s cross-border international capacities is a key goal, said Stephen Bernstein, a Boston partner who co-chairs the firm’s health transactions group. “We’re not official sponsors because we wanted to focus on panels,” Bernstein said. “We’ve gone for the substance of what the conference is about.”

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