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Gregory Gallo is a happier lawyer since some nerdy scientists hired him this month to represent their startup. His new clients talk technology, not market share, said the veteran Silicon Valley partner at Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich. For Gallo, the client marks not only a return to the good old days before the Internet boom of the 1990s, but also to the way it was in the 1970s, when Gallo first started practicing in Palo Alto, Calif. That was before personal computers, when Gallo had to spout text into a Dictaphone when he wanted to “draft” a document. But that was fun, he said, while practicing law in the late 1990s wasn’t. “We had hundreds of people coming through the door who were young, inexperienced and not trying to build companies around technology,” Gallo griped. The companies that were getting started, he said, “weren’t based on anything other than trying to capture market share.” Of course, it’s safe now to complain about Internet startups. Three years ago, no one was complaining when law firms were inundated with well-funded startups that promised stock options and fat fees. Many of those clients have since shriveled up and disappeared. That’s not to say Gallo is pleased that so many technology clients, and the jobs they gave to people, are gone from the Valley. “Nothing good came from the dot-bomb because it’s been hard on everything,” he said. But it sure feels good to talk technology instead of marketing, he added. Gallo isn’t alone in welcoming back a so-called “back-to-basics” investment strategy. Venture capitalists, burned out of millions by defunct Internet startups, have claimed to be using that approach in recent years when evaluating new companies. And Gallo has company in signing on new startups. Technology lawyers throughout the Valley have been optimistic in recent months since new companies are again appearing after VCs froze their money following the fall in the stock market. Data from the MoneyTree Survey of venture capital, compiled by two market research firms and one accounting heavyweight, seem to suggest the worst of the backlash among VCs may be over. California venture capitalists put money into 17 new companies in the first quarter of this year, compared to just 11 in the prior quarter, according to the survey. Gallo said it will be a while before the startups, while once again fun to represent, begin generating big fees. But it’s a start. “They’re small and risky, like they used to be,” Gallo said. “But they’re filling the pipeline and out of one of these will be a big company.”

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