The Los Angeles-Orange County area is experiencing a boom in high-tech activity. In the first nine months of last year, venture capital investment in that region grew to $1.34 billion, double the amount invested in the same period in 1998, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. (In comparison, $7.7 billion was invested in Silicon Valley during the same nine months of last year.)

“What’s really remarkable is that over the last three years [this market] has gone from almost nonexistent to vibrant,” says Latham & Watkins partner David Hernand, who cochairs the firm’s venture and technology group. There’s a lot of opportunity for law firms here because, he says, there’s no dominant player – no “go-to” firm. Until recently, only a few smaller L.A. firms, such as Irell & Manella, focused on this arena. Silicon Valley firms such as Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison have already infiltrated the region, but now there’s more competition. “We’re taking on clients with a different profile than in the past,” says Hernand. Those companies include Pasadena-based idealab!, and Digital Entertainment Network, Inc., a producer of original programming for the Internet.