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The job that David Segre started last week is a little harder than it was when he was last a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. Segre gave up his partnership at Palo Alto, Calif.-based Wilson nearly 17 months ago. At that time, lawyers were practically beating clients away with a stick. Now that there’s a downturn and Segre has gone back to Wilson, he’s charged with rooting out new clients for the firm. Wilson welcomed back Segre after what he called a “self-imposed sabbatical” during which he was a business development executive for San Jose, Calif.-based FusionOne Inc., which had been one of his clients. “I expect to be a better lawyer having spent the time in an operational role,” Segre said. “I’ll be able to look back at FusionOne not as a great financial experience but one that gave me a lot of perspective.” Segre is the second partner to leave Wilson during the Internet boom only to return for the bust. Partner Jonathan Axelrad rejoined Wilson in January after a year with an Internet company incubator. Still, Segre is one of the lucky few Silicon Valley lawyers able to return to firm life after a stint in-house. San Francisco Bay Area recruiters say they’re swamped with quality candidates but have few jobs at law firms open to them. During his tenure at the wireless software company, Segre handled four acquisitions and saw the company grow to some 300 employees and raise $130 million from private investors. But that kind of activity wasn’t sustainable in this market, Segre said. “They’re not going to be, in the near term, very active in things for me to add value to,” Segre said. At Wilson, Segre is acting as a senior partner in a corporate group once headed by Wilson partner Judith Mayer O’Brien, who left last summer to form a venture capital firm, and Donna Petkanics, who now devotes much of her time to firm management. But his No. 1 goal is make rain: “I have a lot of runway to grow the business,” Segre said. Petkanics, Wilson’s managing partner of operations, said the firm is pleased with Segre’s return. “We’re happy to have him back,” she said. “He was a great contributor while he was here.”

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