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Venture Law Group made another round of employee cuts Tuesday, targeting 10 lawyers and 22 staff. The cuts make the Menlo Park, Calif.-based VLG the seventh San Francisco Bay Area law firm to resort to lawyer layoffs because of the ailing economy. VLG’s lawyer cuts represent 15 percent of its 69 associates and senior lawyers, a rank that comes right before partner. All of the firm’s four offices are affected. The staff cuts represent nearly 19 percent of the firm’s 117 nonlawyer employees. “Our sense is that the business climate is not changing dramatically, and we just have to make sure we’re right-sized for this environment,” said Donald Keller Jr., a VLG partner. The layoff follows a series of cost-cutting measures the firm has tried. The firm laid off staff in May and shrank its ranks of lawyers with performance-related firings and by assigning back-office duties to a handful of lawyers at a reduced salary. VLG also offered a stipend to lawyers who were willing to take another job in public service, but just one lawyer did so. Earlier this month, the firm delayed indefinitely the start date for its first-year associate class. Craig Johnson, who co-founded the firm and modeled it after a venture capital firm, said VLG will continue to focus on early-stage companies and to take equity stakes in clients. “No one at VLG questions our focus or business model,” Johnson said. “But we’re not immune from the economy and the lack of activity in Silicon Valley.” The firm had too many lawyers for the work that Silicon Valley has to offer these days, Johnson said. “We have to take steps to make sure the business remains economically sound, and we have every hope what we’ve done today will be all we have to do,” Johnson said. Throughout Silicon Valley, law firms have been laying off associates and staff. Cooley Godward was the first to lay off associates, cutting 86 in August. Fenwick & West followed in September, trimming its ranks by 32 associates. Earlier this month, San Jose’s Skjerven Morrill MacPherson cut 11 associates. And last week, Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian, which like VLG depends heavily on venture capital activity, laid off 16 associates. Also last week, Oakland’s Crosby, Heafey, Roach & May laid off 13 associates. In the San Francisco Bay Area, Thelen Reid & Priest was the first law firm to lay off associates, quietly cutting a few associates last spring. While VLG has been trimming its lawyer ranks and staff this year, the firm has expanded geographically. In July, the firm opened up a San Francisco office. The following month, the firm opened up an office in Reston, Va., transferring a partner and a handful of associates. Keller said the new offices are long-term bets on the firm, and the firm couldn’t pass on the chance to open up in Reston when a partner wanted to relocate. “It’s a good market; it puts us on the East Coast,” said Keller.

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