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A crowd of summer associates, partners, and staff members gathered in Venable’s top-floor conference room. The theme song from the movie “Rocky” rang through the air. William Coston, Venable’s D.C. managing partner, hoisted a trophy in the air. “Get your bocce on!” he called out. It was the opening event of the firm’s 2007 bocce ball tournament. But even before the first ball was rolled, tossed, or thrown down the court, Venable’s bocce players had been getting ready. Given Venable’s more than 80 two-person teams and its regulation-size bocce court on the rooftop of the firm’s Chinatown office, some other firms might ask just how many billable hours are lost each summer while players compete for the trophy. But Venable employees get into the spirit of the game. Players have spent at least part of their creative energies on bocce-centric team names such as the Boccenators and Addicted to Bocce. And then there are the teams that can’t seem to leave behind the legal wordplay � the Dangling Modifiers, Patently Offensive, and Intentionally Left Blank. What possessed the firm to create a tournament based on an ancient game that harks back to the Roman Empire? “It was a way to have fun, bring people together. And it breaks down the division between staff and lawyers,” says Coston. The tournament has been going on for the past four years, starting not long after the firm moved into its new digs, at 575 7th St. N.W. This year, the firm added a two-game seeding round, so each team played two games. Winners of the first round � 32 of the 80-plus teams � advanced to the tournament round. “To my eternal shame,” says public relations manager Charles Wilkins, “my team finished the seeding round in 44th position and failed to advance.” CIAO, BOCCE Coston’s idea was that a tournament would keep firm members connected even after they moved to the larger space. Does Venable have long-standing Italian roots? No, says Coston. But it can boast the Italian heritage of Benjamin Civiletti, a partner and the firm’s former chairman. Civiletti threw out the first bocce ball in this year’s competition. The real reason, Coston admits, is that there is no “me” in bocce. And, we might add, what could be more fun than a rooftop in summertime Washington? And that spirit was certainly on display at the kickoff event earlier this summer, when a group that called itself Stephanie and the Dealbreakers serenaded the crowd with a song called “Bringing Bocce Back,” set to the tune of the Justin Timberlake hit “Bringing Sexy Back.” The group included partner Stephanie DeLong, associates Eric Blue and Micah Elazar, and paralegals Sarah Hendon and Angela Thomas.
Anna Palmer is a staff writer at Roll Call .

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