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From pinstriped suit to flip-flops and back again. Such was the road taken by Drinker Biddle & Reath sixth-year associate Ian Goldstein, one of several younger attorneys to recently return to law firm life after spending time with a dot-com company. In 1999 and 2000, associates like Goldstein in transactional practices were successfully wooed into the dot-com world by the promise of lucrative stock options, heightened responsibility and relief from billable hour requirements. Just a year later, the stock options aren’t worth much and many attorneys have returned to the billable hour world with a new perspective on their careers. “Being at a dot-com opened my eyes to a lot of things,” Goldstein said. “It was an invaluable experience not only for the knowledge it gave me but also for giving me the chance to know what it’s like to be a client. I was also able to make more contacts in that short period of time than I would have been able to do here.” Goldstein graduated from Rutgers-Camden in 1995 and immediately joined Drinker’s Philadelphia office. He moved to the Princeton, N.J., office in 1999 and worked in the corporate and securities group, which included representing venture capital clients in financings. One such client was HoopsTV.com, a basketball-related Web site with a hip-hop cultural theme. In all, he handled two rounds of financing for the Paoli, Pa.-based startup before becoming its general counsel in January 2000. “It was early 2000 and they were an Internet company and those kinds of offers come around only once in a while,” Goldstein said. “They were a bunch of young guys, they were smart people so I thought it was worth a try. And yes, they had not yet gone public and there was the prospect of [cashing in on] stock options.” So he shed his business suits in favor of the T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops often donned by the 20-something HoopsTV.com crowd. While he might not have dressed the part, Goldstein was still very much a transactional lawyer, handling contractual work, obtaining rights to display basketball footage on the site and handling more financing work. By the spring, though, the latter became increasingly challenging, as spiraling stock prices caused potential investors to back off from dot-com entities such as HoopsTV.com. Prospects for success became dimmer as summer came. “HoopsTV actually hung on for a while because it did not spend its venture capital financing frivolously, we negotiated links with other sites, content sharing agreements and ESPN took a small equity investment,” Goldstein said. “But ultimately, the inability to obtain further financing was too much to overcome.” While the company folded two months ago, Goldstein left last summer. Chief among his reasons was the need for job stability. With his wife already the victim of dot-com layoffs, and financing problems brewing at HoopsTV, he put in a call to his former bosses at Drinker and returned to the firm in July. Like Goldstein, Dechert associate Brian Short has seen a lot in his four-year legal career. He just returned to the firm in March after a 13-month stint as an in-house counsel for AssetTRADE, a partner company of Internet Capital Group, whose legal operation is run by former Dechert corporate department chair Henry Nassau. Through representing ICG, Short learned of opportunities at AssetTRADE, a King of Prussia, Pa.-based startup that began as an online marketplace for used industrial equipment. As the dot-com lost its luster last year with the sagging economic climate, the company decided to expand beyond the Internet to become traditional auctioneers. “I wasn’t looking [to switch jobs] because I was happy at Dechert,” Short said. “But the pay was good, the options were attractive — all of the things people were dreaming about at that time. The company hadn’t gone public and it just didn’t seem like much of a risk for me. I thought it would be an opportunity to become exposed to the business side of deals.” Short joined AssetTRADE in January 2000 as vice president of the legal department, where he was more or less in charge of transactional work, general contracting and fund raising. The company’s general counsel was and is former Dechert ERISA associate Jonathan Clark, who handled business development and gave Short responsibility for the transactional side of things. But as the economy gradually began to sour, so did the acquisition work that kept Short busy for much of 2000. The company’s growth plans became more modest in nature and Short was relegated to general contract work, not exactly exciting or something he viewed as a good thing for his career development. He decided to move on. Short explored opportunities with other firms and in-house legal operations. But after a call to Dechert partner Jim Lebovitz, a member of the business and technology practice group who handled much of Asset Trade’s work as an outside counsel, Short decided to return to his old firm in February. While he returns to the same firm in the same position, associate in the corporate department, Short now has business contacts from his 13 months at Asset Trade that he hopes to parlay into client development. “Jim and [Dechert corporate department chair] Carmen Romano encouraged me to build on those relationships,” Short said. “It’s nice to have their support, even if it winds up eating into my billables.” The slumping economy has not claimed all dot-coms, nor have all dot-com associates returned to law firm life. Robin Sheldon was on the cusp of partnership in Reed Smith’s international law practice when she left last May to become associate general counsel for Sanchez Computer Associates, a software producer for the banking industry. In December, she moved on to become general counsel of Plymouth Meeting, Pa.-based Half.com, an online marketplace for remaindered goods such as music, movies, books, games, electronics, trading cards, sporting equipment and computers. “At Reed Smith, I didn’t have many technology clients but I always liked technology and I was in the business world before I went to law school,” Sheldon said. “I didn’t [leave Reed Smith] simply because dot-coms were rising stars and everyone was going to get rich. I actually left after the first big dip [in Internet stock prices]. I knew it was somewhat of a risk but everyone was convinced that [the economic downturn] was an anomaly and that things would turn around.” As far as dot-coms go, Sheldon picked one that is almost recession-proof. Whether the economy is strong or weak, consumers are always searching for bargains. And the 175-employee Half.com, which was bought last year by eBay, also does not rely on transactions to stay afloat. Sheldon is kept busy with contractual, intellectual property, marketing, advertising and liability work. “Our business is sort of countercyclical,” Sheldon said. “The environment, in terms of the legal issues surrounding the Internet world, is extremely exciting. I just think there are some companies that don’t have a business model that is valued and some that do.” Even though his experience didn’t necessarily pan out exactly as he expected, Short said he absorbed a lot in a relatively short period of time. That realization brought Lebovitz, a former Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll partner who spent three years in-house with a San Diego company before returning to Philadelphia to join Dechert, to jokingly compare his experience to that of his younger colleague. “Jim told me that he saw a full business cycle during his time [in San Diego],” Short said. “He said ‘You saw a full business cycle in nine months.’ “I don’t regret doing it at all. It was a great experience. I got to do everything I was doing as an associate, plus the business aspect. Some people might look at it as if I failed and I’m coming back with my tail between my legs. But that’s not true. I learned a lot from the experience.”

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