Practicing In: San Francisco

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Yes, the dot-com era is over. Yes, local law firms have laid off scores of lawyers. No, there are no tumbleweeds tumbling down San Francisco's famously hilly streets. While firms heavily dependent on technology have taken a thrashing, the city remains one of the country's top five legal markets. But more than being a good place to work, San Francisco is a fabulous place to live. If the city's rolling hills, sweeping views, and painted Victorians aren't beautiful enough for you, head to Tahoe, Yosemite, or Big Sur, each less than a half-day's drive away. The Bay City's proximity to the Napa and Sonoma Valleys fuels a cultish devotion to fine food and wine. And a long tradition of live-and-let-live tolerance has produced a diverse, never-dull citizenry. Worldly yet down-to-earth, liberal-minded but hardworking, San Franciscans take pride in their city's reputation as the American Paris. Hell, some call Paris the French San Francisco.


Large and diversified Morrison & Foerster was San Francisco's top-grossing firm in 2001. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe are among the city's other top multipractice shops. Tech-driven firms such as Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and Cooley Godward have been battered by the dot-com implosion, but if it's cutting-edge tech work you seek, they're still leaders. If you're set on joining a corporate counsel team, a slew of Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in the Bay Area, from tech behemoths like Hewlett-Packard and Intel to such Old Economy giants as ChevronTexaco and PG&E. Litigation boutique Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder is considered the Boies Schiller of Cali.

The landmark Fillmore is the place where Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane made history; today you can catch acts from Alanis Morissette to Musiq. The sleek San Francisco Museum of Modern Art building, opened in 1995, is a work of art in its own right-never mind that the museum showcases leading Left Coast talent. Of the city's many world-famous tourist attractions, locals place spooky, foggy Alcatraz at the top of the list. The hugely popular Bay to Breakers 12k run, held each May, draws an only-in-San Francisco mix of world-class athletes, everyday fitness enthusiasts, drag queens, and nudists.

Edgy, postindustrial neighborhoods that drew dot-commers in the '90s, like SoMa ("south of Market"), have suddenly gotten a lot more affordable. If you'd rather live in a classic San Franciscan Victorian, check out Noe Valley. The Marina is a preferred mating area for young urban professionals (locals call them Gap Republicans). After you've made managing partner, head for Pacific Heights-the storied hilltop mansion district with the drop-dead views of San Francisco Bay.

Union Square is SF's answer to New York's SoHo or Chicago's Miracle Mile. In addition to the major department stores (Neiman Marcus, Tiffany, Saks), you'll find Armani, Gucci, and other high-end boutiques. Women of a certain tax bracket flock to Heather on upper Fillmore for upscale fashions from lesser-known designers. Rolo Garage, in SoMa, sells of-the-moment designer clothes at a discount. Still fond of batik? Cruise the neo-hippie shops in the Haight-Ashbury.

After work, meet for a martini at Bix, a '30s-style supper club, or go celebrity spotting (Robin Williams, Francis Ford Coppola) at the charming, elegant Tosca Cafe. If you're in the Castro, stop in at The Cafe, a casual bar and lounge with pool tables and a dance floor that draws a fabulous crowd of gays and lipstick lesbians. Club Six attracts a mixed, fun-loving set that bobs along to a deep-house soundtrack. And it doesn't get any cooler (Ha!) than Sno-Drift, a club built to look like a ski lodge.

Boulevard is hailed as the city's best eatery of the moment; ask for a seat with a view of the Bay Bridge and order the roasted pork loin. After a decade of dazzling lawyers and other professionals with its creative seafood specialties, Aqua is still the gold-card standard for power lunches. The Slanted Door has drawn gushing reviews for its haute Vietnamese cuisine. Berkeley's Chez Panisse is where legendary chef Alice Waters launched the ultrafresh local seasonal ingredients movement; if you even pretend to be a foodie, make the pilgrimage.

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Morrison & Foerster LLP.

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