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Six months ago, law firm offices in California’s Silicon Valley seemed to empty faster than hiring partners could fill them. But what a change a dramatic drop in the Nasdaq brings to things like attrition. With the volume way down on the siren song of instant dot-com wealth, law firm hiring partners are finding their ranks are not turning over as quickly as they did last year. “Relative to the first half of the year, we’re in good shape — the work is more in equilibrium with our capacity to serve it,” said Jorge Del Calvo, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based Pillsbury Madison & Sutro partner. With fewer departures and corporate and litigation work steaming ahead despite the down market, hiring partners are finding their goals for growth are not declining — but are easier to reach. “The fact there’s less attrition doesn’t change the fact that we’re hiring for growth,” said John Steele, Palo Alto-based Fenwick & West’s hiring partner. “There’s a lot of good corporate work — Valley firms have had more demand than they could fill for the past several years,” Steele said. Business is still booming for Silicon Valley firms even if their clients are not staging initial public offerings at the same frenetic pace as in prior years. Instead of using IPOs to facilitate growth, some client companies are doing more joint ventures or mergers and acquisitions. Some are even retooling their operations, which can include redoing many of the company’s existing contracts. And technology company deals, especially the financings, are getting more complicated as everyone seeks to protect their interest should the market tumble some more. “They’re more akin to a workout than a traditional financing,” said Del Calvo. For the Palo Alto office especially, Pillsbury has been hiring more lawyers this year than last year. And hiring in general has gotten a little easier for firms since they are no longer competing with their clients to the extent they were last year. At Palo Alto’s Cooley Godward, slower turnover has prompted the firm to rethink its hiring goals as the year comes to a close. “Lateral hiring was the focus of our associate hiring efforts eight months ago — now it’s slowed to a crawl,” said Richard Climan, Cooley’s hiring partner. Like most firms, Cooley’s still hiring. Cooley and firms like Fenwick, San Diego-based Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich and San Francisco-based Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison are able to bring on the help they need but could not get last year. “The market slowdown may take the edge off the competition, where people were having to give lots and lots of offers to fill the available spaces,” said Richard Yankwich, Gray Cary’s recruiting partner. Gray Cary has brought on board 80 new lawyers in the first nine months of this year, including both partners and associates. The firm now has some 450 lawyers. Last year, the firm hired 60 laterals. And the demand for more bodies for the firm’s corporate group has not subsided despite this year’s change in market conditions, Yankwich said. Corporate alone wanted to bring on board 81 lawyers during 2000, he said. The same trend is under way at Brobeck. The firm has added nearly 300 lawyers this year, bringing the total number of lawyers at the firm to about 875. In all of last year Brobeck added just 207 new lawyers. Adds Molly Lane, Brobeck’s hiring partner: “This year, we just caught up to where our needs were.” With slightly less than two months before the end of the year, however, the pace of hiring has slowed down. Many firms are trying to integrate their new crops of first-year associates. Brobeck and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati both welcomed new classes of almost 100 first-years. NEW YORK FIRMS The arrival of New York law firms in the San Francisco Bay Area has helped drive demand for more lawyers. And the demand for in-house talent is still great among operating companies as well, say recruiters. “One of the greatest misconceptions out there since the Internet bubble burst is that people have learned a great lesson, that they’re more skeptical,” said Robert Major Jr., a principal at San Francisco recruiter Major Hagen & Africa. “There is still unabated interest in these new economies,” said Major. Still, recruiters and some hiring partners are expecting a slowdown in job-jumping. “The market slowdown may take the edge off the competition, where people were having to give lots and lots of offers to fill the available spaces.”

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