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Litigation is the happening group at Palo Alto, Calif.-based Fenwick & West — just ask any junior corporate associate. They’ve been asked to spend at least 25 hours a week helping litigators on a bushel of big-ticket litigation, in particular, three cases that have entered the discovery phase and are soaking up hundreds of hours in lawyer time. First-, second- and third-year associates have been tossed into the litigation mix — a move partners say provides a training opportunity as well as a way to put associates to work as corporate deal-making continues to lag. Partners say Fenwick’s litigation group has been stretched thin, necessitating the heavy borrowing. The 25 hours isn’t written in stone. Some associates who actually have corporate work to do can log fewer litigation hours. But the 25-hour average per junior associate is what partners estimate the firm needs over the next several months. David Lisi, a litigation partner, said the firm is trying to spread the excess work evenly among associates so none of them misses out on key corporate deal training. “We don’t want to penalize people for helping us at the expense of their own careers,” Lisi said. “During these times, you want to make people feel like they’re all part of a bigger plan rather than just the luck of the draw.” Litigation work had seemed to reach a peak last month, when more than half of the firm’s 50 litigation associates topped 200 billable hours, said Timothy Roake, the partner who heads the litigation group. The litigation group has had on hand 10 to 30 corporate associates pitching in with document review part time, Roake said. In a busy month, the group has had enough spillover hours to put nearly 20 corporate associates to work full time, he said. Junior associates are put to work sorting documents, reading and cataloguing them. More senior associates help out on matters specific to their expertise, Roake said. “I know from time to time that people will refer to these things as drudge work, but this is crucial work that needs to be done by trained lawyers,” Roake said. “The devil is in the details.” Roake started in February collecting names from corporate associates willing to do the work. In March, the litigators staged the first of a series of litigation refreshers and training sessions on the matters the firm is handling. Fenwick litigators are active on a variety of fronts. Partners Claude Stern, Bradford Lewis and Patricia Nicely Kopf are representing Sunnyvale’s Good Technology Inc. in a series of disputes with BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. over Good’s software for the handheld device. Partners Laurence Pulgram and Emmett Stanton are defending ReplayTV and parent company SONICblue Inc. against accusations from a lineup of movie industry titans that its video-on-demand technology infringes on film copyrights. And in Michigan, the firm is representing Compuware Corp. in its fight with IBM Corp. over alleged antitrust issues and copyright infringement, with partners Daniel Johnson Jr. and Lisi at the helm. In the past 12 months, all three cases have entered the discovery phase, generating millions of documents that need reading as litigators travel around the country taking depositions. Meanwhile, the issues central to these cases are familiar territory for corporate associates, and the documents are similar to the ones corporate associates draft regularly for their own clients, Lisi said. “They know where to look in licensing contracts; they know how to make sense of large board minutes and attachments,” Lisi said. For their part, corporate partners are pleased to see their ranks of associates kept busy, even if it sometimes means their favorite associates are unavailable. “This is a great idea,” said corporate partner Jacqueline Daunt. “We’re all waiting for the economy to turn around, but in the meantime, God bless litigation.”

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