Left to right: Steptoe partners Bill Abrams, Laurie Edelstein and Sanjeet Dutta in Steptoe’s San Francisco office (courtesy photo)
SAN FRANCISCO—Three years after Steptoe & Johnson’s arrival in the Bay Area, the firm is moving to the city.
Steptoe has relocated all 10 attorneys from its Palo Alto office to 1 Market St. in downtown San Francisco. Steptoe chairman Phil West said being more centrally positioned will help the Washington-based firm reach more clients seeking regulatory advice, white collar defense expertise and tax work.
“San Francisco is a bigger place,” West said. “It’s a place that we think will enable us to serve a broader range of clients, attract a broader range of talent and put to use a broader range of our practices compared to the IP and commercial litigation success we had in the Valley.”
Steptoe opened its Palo Alto office in January 2014 with two patent litigators from King & Spalding: William Abrams, who became the office’s managing partner and will hold the same role in the new location, and Sanjeet Dutta. A year later, the firm brought on commercial litigation partner Laurie Edelstein from Brune & Richard. It now numbers five partners, two counsel and three associates in San Francisco.
Other firms have made the reverse move in recent years. Skadden Arps folded its San Francisco office into its Palo Alto location in 2010, and White & Case did the same in 2006. Skadden’s regional managing partner Kenton King said at the time that he viewed the Bay Area as a single market, and consolidating made sense because “If you look at where there’s more growth, where there are more companies and more capital formation, it isn’t San Francisco.”
But West said many of Steptoe’s Valley clients have moved north as the startup scene in San Francisco has taken off, and he believes the firm will be able to continue serving the rest from its new location.
“We do a lot of work for our Silicon Valley clients out of Washington,” he said. “What we think we can do more effectively is be a Washington provider of our Washington regulatory practice to a broader range of clients in San Francisco.
Though the San Francisco office is roughly the same size as the one the firm occupied in Palo Alto, West said he expects a headcount expansion to follow the move.
“We’re probably not known in Northern California as much as some other firms that have greater numbers,” he said. “We think we have a quality that’s unmatched. … But our brand recognition in Northern California is not equal or greater than other firms, and we want to get it there.”
Quality of life considerations also influenced West’s thinking about relocating the office, which he said he had been contemplating for about a year.
“The vast majority of our lawyers had a miserable commute to the Valley, and they are closer to the city,” he said. “I grew up in New York City, and I empathize with this long drive thing. I don’t have that gene in me.”
In a news release from the firm, Abrams, a Giants season ticket holder, noted that the new office is also closer to AT&T Park.