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09/07/06

Perkins Coie expands international litigation practice in China


Perkins Coie will open a new office in Shanghai after setting up office in Beijing. Two resident attorneys, Fabiola Suwanto, and Zhaohui Zoe Wang, will take charge. The addition of a new office of Perkins Coie has induced fresh competition between U.S.-based law firms in China who are vying for a larger market share in the region.

Perkins Coie's new office will cater to the requirements of both U.S. and China clients, and attorneys at the firm's LA office will support the firm's IP practice in China. With China becoming a member of the World Trade Organization, the law firm is anticipating increase in work from the business community in the region. Fabiola Suwanto, who will be the Chief Representative of the Shanghai office, focuses her practice on international estate planning and estate and trust administration whereas Zhaohui Zoe Wang focuses her practice on patent infringement and validity opinions, freedom-to-operate analyses, patent litigation, patentability analyses, patent prosecution, technology transfers and licensing.

Middle-level attorneys tipped as potential business generators for law firms
The demand for middle-level lawyers is on the increase. Attorneys with three to six years of experience, who are not demanding high salary packages, are tipped to become potential junior partners. In the past year, major legal recruitment firms have observed a sharp increase in the number of job opportunities across the country especially in the Pacific Northwest region.

Earlier, law firms used to curtail operational costs by hiring young associates instead of experienced attorneys. Recently, however, they have reworked their hiring approaches and are aggressively looking for experienced legal talent. The potential hires are making lateral moves from small firms to larger ones or into corporate counsel positions. The additional advantage for firms is that middle level lawyers bring clients with them. Dorsey & Whitney, with more than 600 attorneys in 19 locations, expands its Seattle office primarily with lateral hires with this specific benefit.

Moreover, real estate, taxes, and patents are considered as potential practice areas, and attorneys with significant experience in these practices are good targets for big law firms who are always looking to grow and expand geographically. The coming years will witness an increased dependence on experienced attorneys who can also generate valuable business for the firms.

Alston & Bird plans to boost commercial litigation practice
Alston & Bird has embarked on a new growth strategy to boost its commercial litigation practice and bring it on par with its already established IP practice. The first steps in this process have been the appointment of John Baron to lead the tax group in the firm's Charlotte office and Mark Vasco, the new partner in its Litigation and Trial Practice group.

Alston & Bird believes that there are better chances for the firm to grow in the region, as it specializes in diversified practice areas and has legal professionals to handle individual practice groups. The firm wants to build up the securitization component and syndicated lending, as well as the employment and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) expertise.

The change in the firm's growth strategy is also reflected in the fact that Alston & Bird has maintained the lead in the top law firms across the country. Fortune magazine has ranked the firm at No. 19, the highest ranking of any law firm, an accomplishment largely attributed to its quality internal communication skills. In addition to this, the firm was ranked 10th in the Corporate Counsel survey and bagged the fifth position for its IP and litigation practice groups.

Clients inspire focused approach on diversity in law firms
High profile corporations and institutions have set high diversity benchmarks for law firms, in turn prompting the firms to raise standards in related issues. Diverse businesses are in demand these days, and as a result law firms are investing more time and money on making sure they exceed the basic required standards.

For instance, Seattle-based Davis Wright Tremaine, whose large corporate clients include Microsoft, Starbucks, Bank of America, General Motors, and Wal-Mart, is required by its clients to participate in diversity conferences and report diversity numbers. This has pushed firms to nominate special lawyers to look into this aspect and to form diversity committees. The increased demand for diversity also gets mirrored in the recruitment process. Firms like Lane Powell PC have started educating their staff members on related issues and has instituted diversity scholarships such as Lane Powell's George Powell Scholarship, which provides a summer job to second- year minority law students and $6,000 for a minority student's third year of school.

An additional effect of this trend is the hiring of diversity managers who are responsible for implementing diversity objectives in line with other key firm constituencies. Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham hired the first ever diversity officer solely responsible for the creation and maintenance of a diverse workplace.

Work at law firms lures in-house attorneys from corporations
In-house attorneys working with big corporations are increasingly switching over to law firms in search of a better job profile and a more comfortable working environment. The move is welcomed by the firms, which appreciate the experience and perspective of attorneys who have worked in in-house positions.

Most firms find ready work for the corporate skills of in-house attorneys. Recently, law firm Ashurst strengthened its securities and structured finance team with the hiring of James Coiley, was former head of structured derivative products in the legal and transaction management department at BNP Paribas. Coiley rejoined Ashurst after previously being an associate at the firm prior to his move in-house. Dennis P. Duffy, former vice president and associate general counsel for labor and employment for Time Warner Inc., joined Baker Botts as a partner in the firm's Labor and Employment section based at Houston.

Unlike corporations where attorneys get to know specific details about the client's business and are involved at the strategic and financial level, law firms offer a team environment free from cost concerns. While General Counsels are engaged in similar projects, attorneys at law firms can try their hand at different works, including involvement in pro bono activities and be a part of diversity committee.

For many in-house attorneys, the law firm path turns out to be a good choice due to the wide variety of options and firm cultures that are available in an expansive search. Law firms most often offer generous salaries and comfortable surroundings. Many attorneys practicing in law firms also find the work interesting and derive satisfaction.

As part of law firms or individual practice, attorneys are also expected to possess sales or marketing skills that could ultimately help grow the firm they are working in. As part of a corporation, an attorney has extended responsibilities wherein he might have to attend social events or community activities in addition to a routine business day, while in law firms or individual practice, an attorney has somewhat more liberty to enjoy his personal life after a busy day at work.

On the other hand, in-house attorneys on average are better paid lawyers in terms of salaries and compensation packages than their counterparts. The value of each option depends as always on the attorney's interests and priorities.

Greenberg Traurig ropes in founder and director of Rossi & Company P.C.
Colorado-based Rossi & Company P.C. is set to join forces with corporate and securities practice group operations of Greenberg Traurig. He will join Greenberg Traurig's Denver office, providing assistance to individuals and firms through structural changes and complex financial matters, including public and private equity restructuring, leveraged buyouts, and M&A. His arrival at Greenberg Traurig is intended to boost the firm's corporate and securities practice.

Rossi was earlier an attorney at Mayer, Brown & Platt. Rossi is a member of the Denver Bar Association's corporate, banking and business law committees, the Colorado Bar Association's judicial, bankruptcy, legal education and administration law committees, and the American Bar Association's corporate, banking and business law committees.

Davis Miles opens New Mexico office
Arizona-based Davis Miles PLLC has expanded its geographical presence by opening an office in New Mexico. Eight new lawyers will staff the new office with expertise in commercial litigation, real estate, tax, personal injury, domestic relations, bankruptcy, probate, estate planning, and other areas. The firm enjoys the reputation of being the only firm in New Mexico that acts as provider of services for Oklahoma-based Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. Pre-Paid Legal offers Legal Service Plans to the public by providing access to highly rated law firms and their attorneys for a fraction of the price one would generally pay. This constitutes a third of the firm's total work in the country including the Arizona office.

New Mexico is reportedly experiencing substantial growth and provides an excellent opportunity for legal expansion. The firm is banking heavily on its competence and efficient customer service capability to create an edge over the other law firms of the region. East Valley firms are increasingly handling more sophisticated legal matters that were once considered outside the immediate legal domain.

Firms redefine "perks" to suit attorneys
Law firms across the country are coming up with new and innovative ways to retain attorneys. The term "perks" has been redefined, with attorneys being offered extra privileges like janitor services, back-up babysitting, laundry and dry cleaning pickup, home catering services, and mentoring programs to attract and retain top legal talent.

Each time an attorney leaves the firm, North Carolina-based Kennedy Covington Lobdell Hickman reportedly loses $200,000 to $250,000. Offering extra benefits is a way of working around the situation. Latham is one of three Los Angeles firms with big Washington offices; the other two are Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, and O'Melveny & Myers that offer benefits like free use of gym, breakfast on Friday, and an employee fun day. Extra benefits, it is hoped, will help increase productivity and better the work/life balance for employees.

Also, many firms organize frequent lunches, dinners, and cocktails, and in-office events like deck parties in the library to hold on to interns. Washington DC-based Arnold & Porter organizes a casual dinner at the Managing Partner's home, cocktails, a baseball game, and a karaoke night for the summer associates. These extras also serve to attract talented students in a competitive hiring environment. Similarly, IP firm Finnegan Henderson Farabow Garrett & Dunner organizes social, cultural, and sports events, and firm-hosted dinners and receptions for summer associates to help them familiarize with the firm's community. In order to cope with long working hours, high stress and demanding bosses, many firms also provide stress counseling and psychiatric help as part of their benefits.

Kirkpatrick & Lockhart LLP

    


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