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On the final days of 1999, attorneys at Menlo Park, California’s Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian were so busy that they’d stopped taking virtually all new business. And the firm still didn’t have enough bodies to throw at its existing work. “It was killing us,” says name partner Steven Franklin. “We were turning away awesome opportunities, opportunities that three years ago we would have given our eyeteeth to have.” During the year Gunderson had lost roughly 10 percent of its 90 attorneys to Internet companies. After 30 IPOs, 433 private and venture financings, and 47 mergers and acquisitions-mostly for high-tech companies-the remaining associates were desperate for a break.

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