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- Law firms have shown growing interest in establishing a presence in the West Coast amid the tech and life sciences boom.
- Both Freshfields and Paul Weiss are two firms that have recently announced plans to open offices in Northern California.
- “What people don’t realize, though, is that it’s not actually a very big market, but there’s a ton of demand for talent,” said Bob Brigham of Major, Lindsey & Africa.
- Business Insider spoke with recruiters and industry insiders to compile a list of 8 of the hottest law firms in Silicon Valley, from native firms with roots in the valley to national players seeking to enter the market.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The “wild West” days of Silicon Valley are no longer, and law firms have increasingly been turning their attention westward, seeking to establish a presence in the Bay Area amid the tech and life sciences boom.
Freshfields announced in July that it will be opening a Silicon Valley office, citing the continuing growth of “the impact and strategic importance of technology and life sciences businesses.” Meanwhile, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison also said that it intends to establish a Northern California office, as previously reported in Bloomberg Law.
Law firms’ recent interest in the West Coast isn’t anything new, but is rather a continuation of a years-long trend, said Robert Brigham, a partner in the San Francisco and Palo Alto offices of the recruiting firm, Major, Lindsey & Africa.
“The legal market out here has been booming for as long as I can remember, primarily because it’s the center of the tech universe,” said Brigham. “What people don’t realize, though, is that it’s not actually a very big market, but there’s a ton of demand for talent.”
Business Insider spoke with recruiters and industry insiders to compile a list of 8 of the hottest law firms in Silicon Valley, from native firms with roots in the valley to national players seeking to enter the market.
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich Rosati
Headquarters: Palo Alto, California
Notable clients: Google, Twitter, Netflix, Tesla, Hewlett-Packard, LinkedIn, Expedia, Square
Founded in Silicon Valley, Wilson Sonsini focuses on five major practice areas — antitrust, corporate, IP, litigation, and regulatory and compliance — primarily geared toward the technology sector. It’s since expanded to 16 global offices and has 842 attorneys, per the National Law Journal. Last year, it launched SixFifty, a tech subsidiary dedicated to developing automation tools aimed at making legal operations more efficient and affordable.
Wilson Sonsini, which ranks 43rd in the Am Law 100, advised Google on its $2.7 billion IPO in 2004, and, in 2005, represented its long-time client LinkedIn in its $26.2 million acquisition by Microsoft, which was its largest acquisition to date. More recently, it’s defending Hulu in a Texas class action lawsuit.
Fenwick & West
Headquarters: Mountain Valley, California
Notable clients: Amazon, Cisco, Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, Uber, Airbnb, American Express, Dropbox, Apple, Etsy, Reddit, Coinbase
Fenwick & West is well-known for its specialized focus on working with technology and life sciences companies. A 2019 study conducted by Kruze Consulting found that Fenwick topped the list of law firms for startups, enjoying a 7.2% of revenue market share. In addition, 15% of all startups in the study said they worked with Fenwick. The firm has 346 attorneys, according to the National Law Journal.
In 2012, the firm represented Facebook in its $1 billion purchase of Instagram in 2012, as well as Facebook’s IPO the same year. It then proceeded to represent WhatsApp in its $16 billion acquisition by Facebook in 2014. Fenwick is currently representing Amazon in a patent litigation in Delaware court, and recently helped take Peloton public.
Headquarters: Palo Alto, California
Notable clients: Uber, Facebook, SpaceX, Zoom
Cooley is another native Silicon Valley firm with a strong track record in representing large technology companies and startups. With 16 offices worldwide and more than 1,100 attorneys, per its website, Cooley ranks 23rd among the 2020 Am Law firms. It represents 40% of the companies on the Wall Street Journal’s Billion Dollar Startup Club list, including Uber and SpaceX, and, per Pitchbook, more than half of the 25 most valuable VC-backed companies in the US.
Cooley has worked on many high-profile deals, including Uber’s landmark $8.1 billion IPO in 2019 and Salesforce’s $15.7 billion acquisition of Tableau the same year. In April this year, video conferencing app Zoom hired Cooley to defend it in two lawsuits related to consumer privacy.
Morrison & Foerster
Headquarters: San Francisco, California
Notable clients: SoftBank, Sprint Corporation
Morrison & Foerster, commonly referred to as “MoFo,” tops Vault’s list of best law firms in Northern California and is ranked 32nd in the Am Law 100. According to its website, it has just over 1,000 attorneys.
The firm has strong IP, patent litigation, and corporate practices across various industries, including technology and life sciences. MoFo also represented Japanese telecom giant SoftBank in its $21.6 billion acquisition of a majority stake in Sprint Nextel in 2013, as well as in Alibaba’s historic US IPO in 2014.
Headquarters: Silicon Valley, California
Notable clients: Doordash, Foursquare, Palantir, Accel, Andreessen Horowitz, Benchmark Capital, Sequoia Capital
Though smaller than the other native law firms in Silicon Valley at 250 lawyers, Gunderson Dettmer enjoys a leading share of the market for venture capital fund legal work, per Vault, and is widely recognized for its work with VCs and tech law. In addition to representing startups like Doordash and Foursquare, the firm has also worked with prominent VCs like Accel and Andreessen Horowitz.
Headquarters: Boston, Massachusetts
Notable clients: Slack Technologies, Moderna, Spark Therapeutics
Founded in Boston by two Harvard classmates, Goodwin Procter has since expanded internationally, with more than 1,200 lawyers across 13 offices. It opened its Palo Alto office in 2007 — the firm’s fifth in California — focusing on IP, securities litigation, and corporate practices.
Goodwin runs what it calls a “capital-meets-innovation” platform, advising both investors and innovators in the financial, private equity, technology, and life sciences industries. In 2018, the firm represented biotech company Moderna in its $604 million IPO — the largest biotech offering at the time — and advised Slack Technologies in its famous debut on the New York Stock Exchange through a direct listing last year.
Latham & Watkins
Headquarters: No headquarters, but first office was in Los Angeles, California
Notable clients: Peloton, Puma Biotechnologies, Lemonade
Ranked the fourth best law firm in Northern California by Vault only after Morrison & Foerster, Cooley, and Wilson Sonsini — all firms native to the region — Latham & Watkins has become one of Silicon Valley’s largest advisers. Since its founding in 1934, the firm has grown into one of the world’s largest, with more than 2,700 lawyers across 14 countries.
Latham has been a powerhouse in the IPO space, advising 45 deals that make up 7.45% of the market share, according to Bloomberg Law. The firm, for example, advised Peloton’s 2019 IPO alongside Fenwick & West.
Headquarters: London, UK
Notable clients: Digital Force Technologies, Blue Ocean Robotics, Riverwood Capital
London-headquartered DLA Piper has around 4,000 attorneys located in more than 40 countries, per its website, and has roots in Silicon Valley dating back to the 1960s. The office advises corporations, financial institutions, and VCs in general corporate matters and IP, among others. In 2008, the firm also launched the DLA Piper Tech Summit, which provides insight into global tech trends.
Earlier this year, the Silicon Valley office added three lawyers specializing in cryptocurrency, blockchain, and IP, as reported by the San Francisco Business Times, expanding its tech and life sciences practice in the Bay Area.