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In today’s topsy-turvy legal profession, the adage, “once an in-house lawyer, always an in-house lawyer,” is about as relevant as the one about all lawyers wearing pinstripes. At least it is at Brown Raysman Millstein Felder & Steiner’s 22-attorney Hartford, Conn., office, which, since May, has brought three former general counsel into its business-casual fold. The latest additions — Richard M. Borden, formerly of Hartford-based Paradigm4 Inc., and Bruce Leshine, ex-general counsel of Berkshire Development Co. in Springfield, Mass. — came aboard in October. Together with John A. Brunjes, most recently the general counsel of Farrel Corp. in Ansonia, Conn., the trio’s travels reflect both the growing profile of Brown Raysman’s Internet practice and the pitfalls of being an in-house lawyer, even in an age of seven-figure stock options. Ironically, all three say they nearly joined the 165-lawyer, New York-based firm’s local operation roughly three years ago when they each decided to leave private practice. “At the time, it wasn’t clear what Brown Raysman was doing in Hartford,” admitted Brunjes, a former assistant attorney general in state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s antitrust division. “It wasn’t like Hartford County was a Silicon Valley.” Since then, the office has developed what partner-in-charge Norman H. Roos proclaimed as a “critical mass.” It’s a place, he said, where attorneys can work on “top-shelf” deals for Fortune 500 companies, such as AT&T, that are looking to capitalize on the e-commerce revolution, while still helping launch startups. One of the firm’s most promising clients is ready to conquer the frozen-foods market by offering meals over the Internet prepared by some of the country’s best chefs. Though Connecticut’s technology boom is not an “overnight phenomenon,” the decision to build a presence in Hartford, said Roos, recognizes the state’s legal talent pool. IN-HOUSE NIGHTMARES Brunjes, for one, is thankful for the stability that comes with the diversity of Brown Raysman’s client base. His first general counsel job was at Degeorge Financial Corp., which is now fighting for its survival in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, he said. When Brunjes joined Degeorge in 1997, the company, which provides mortgage financing to low- to middle-income homeowners, had just moved its headquarters to Cheshire. It employed roughly 500 people and was in the midst of an impressive turnaround when a bitter dispute with its major lender erupted a year later, according to Brunjes. “It’s fun being worth seven digits on paper. But the notion that all in-house jobs are all cushy and come with substantial equity [potential] at no risk is both misguided and na�ve,” he warned. “The level of responsibility is enormous.” The assumption that lawyers who go in-house for an emerging technology company play a direct decision-making role in plotting the company’s future also “doesn’t always pan out,” added Borden. “And, if you do have that, it’s not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.” Borden left Paradigm4 in June around the time the wireless data service and solutions provider withdrew its $125 million initial public offering. And, though he declined to discuss the specifics of his departure, he said it followed occasions where he would wake up at 2 a.m. on Sundays and couldn’t fall back to sleep because of the stress that accompanied the job. “I was at a place were I was hoping to make a lot of money quickly, and that didn’t happen,” Borden added. “Coming out of that I look at things in a very different way.” For in-house lawyers returning to a private law firm, “the money,” he maintained, “is important, but it’s not the critical factor.” Far more influential — at least when it comes to Borden’s decision to join Brown Raysman — is the ability to sustain a thriving practice over the long haul, he said. NOT JUST DOCUMENT-PUSHERS As for Leshine: He left Berkshire Development, which developed real estate for information technology firms, because he felt like an outsider looking in. A former computer systems engineer before earning his law degree, he explained that he “wanted to get back into the middle of things.” Leshine estimates that roughly half of the over 50 attorneys in Brown Raysman’s information technology group are what he called “IT industry professionals who happen to practice law.” As such, the firm is often sought to provide a direct advisory role in shaping its clients’ business plans, according to Leshine. “Doing the documents,” he added, “is simply something else that gets done.”

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