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A thriving technology sector and a wave of construction in Seattle have lured about a half-dozen law firms to the Emerald City, most of them within the past few months. In February, Fenwick & West, based in Mountain View, Calif., and Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear, based in Irvine, Calif., opened Seattle offices focused on patent litigation and prosecution. Another patent boutique, New York-based Darby & Darby, has expanded its five-year-old Seattle office to about 20 lawyers. In other practice areas, San Francisco’s Gordon & Rees opened a Seattle office last month geared toward employment and insurance, with an eye toward construction litigation. Another firm, Wolfe Law Group, which was founded in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, opened its second office in Seattle earlier this year to handle construction projects. And California firm Nossaman Guthner Knox & Elliot opened a Seattle office less than two years ago. Seattle companies such as Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. have created an “explosion of legal work,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, a Seattle plaintiffs’ firm that opened a San Francisco office last year. “And so, over the last five years, we’ve seen a big influx of firms.” Silicon connection Fenwick & West, which is based in the Silicon Valley, has clients in technology and life sciences. In recent years, the legal markets in Seattle and Silicon Valley “have converged,” said Stephen Graham, managing partner of Fenwick’s Seattle office, who, along with two other partners, joined the firm from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. “So it was a natural progression for Fenwick to open up in Seattle and tap into that market.” Graham, whose clients include SonoSite Inc. and Acucela Inc., is co-chairman of the firm’s life sciences group. He said the office, which has eight lawyers, should expand to 30 in the next five years, primarily in intellectual property and securities litigation. Knobbe Martens, an intellectual property boutique, has attracted seven lawyers to its Seattle office, including three partners from Seattle intellectual property firm Christensen O’Connor Johnson Kindness. Steve Nataupsky, managing partner at Knobbe Martens, said the office represents venture capital firms and spinoffs of companies such as Microsoft and Google. “Washington state is the third-largest venture capital market in the country, behind California and Massachusetts,” he said. “There’s a lot of deal work going on there in the intellectual property sphere.” Spinoffs also lured Darby & Darby to Seattle in 2003, said David Tellekson, managing principal of the firm. Several of the firm’s clients are in biotechnology, software and medical devices. The office started with two lawyers and is expected to more than double to 40 or 50 in a few years, he said. Some firms setting up shop in Seattle are focusing on other practice areas, most noticeably construction law. “A lot of litigation swirls around that,” said David Silke, co-managing partner of the Seattle office of Gordon & Rees. Silke, along with three other partners and one associate, joined Gordon & Rees last month from Carney Badley Spellman, a Seattle-based firm, and focus on employment and insurance. But Silke said that construction, professional liability, environmental and health care litigation would be strong practices for the firm in Seattle. Construction also prompted Wolfe Law Group to open a Seattle post earlier this year. The firm, founded in 2005, has two lawyers in Seattle representing contractors and engineers in residential and commercial construction defect disputes, said Scott Wolfe, partner and founder of the firm. “Whenever there’s a lot of growth, there’s construction that’s required,” Wolfe said of the Seattle market. Nossaman Guthner, whose Seattle location is in Mercer Island, Wash., focuses on infrastructure projects in that area. The firm has three lawyers there.

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