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 November 19, 1999

High-tech boom attracts Perkins Coie

BOULDER — This city increasingly has become the destination of choice for out-of-state firms looking to capitalize on the county’s emerging high-tech economy.

Now, the Seattle-based law firm of Perkins Coie, with clients like Amazon.com, Nintendo of America, Yahoo! and Dell Computers already in their fold, is joining a growing list of global companies expanding their operations here.

“People work hard here, but they come to Boulder for reasons other than the cutting-edge entrepreneurial environment,” say Steven Segal, partner in charge of expanding Perkins Coie’s Denver office into Boulder County. “I definitely hear less about Boulder companies with cots in their offices than I did in Silicon Valley, where that sort of thing is legendary.”

Perkins Coie’s new office is at 4450 Arapahoe Road in the Viewpoint office park.

Perkins Coie’s success in Silicon Valley sparked the firm to expand its “emerging-companies” practice to Colorado’s Front Range. In 1997, Perkins Coie opened an office in Denver, which now has 12 attorneys. Worldwide, Perkins Coie employs more than 485 lawyers — 100 of which were added in the last year alone. The firm has been in existence since 1912 and has 14 offices throughout North America and Asia.

Less than six months after launching the emerging-companies practice group at Perkins Coie’s Denver office, Segal was given the task of heading the charge into Boulder.

“Our first order of business is to create a presence in Boulder. That’s what we’re doing now,” Segal says. “We hope to have five to 10 lawyers in our Boulder office in the near future. Our long-term goal is to assemble a critical mass of intelligent, business-savvy and technically oriented people from the Boulder/Denver legal community who understand the dynamics of emerging companies and can support and grow the business.”

Segal believes the dual-offices strategy will work well along the Front Range.

“We’ve used the two-office model successfully in Seattle/Bellevue and San Francisco/Menlo Park, and even though Denver is so close to Boulder, it’s a completely different market.”

Segal, who went to law school at the University of Colorado at Boulder, thinks it’s important to have lawyers who work primarily in one location: “We want to become part of the community by being the good neighbors down the street — instead of a law firm down the turnpike.”

He personally plans, however, to log a lot of frequent-driver miles and cell-phone time between the two offices.

Perkins Coie comes to Boulder hoping to reproduce the same high-tech success it achieved in Silicon Valley, where the firm grew from 13 lawyers to more than 40 in less than a year.

“Despite all the lawyer jokes, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs learned that we added to their credibility through introductions to potential financial sources and strategic relationships with our other clients,” Segal says.

The firm looks to partner with Boulder companies that are Internet-based or have an e-commerce focus — preferably businesses that are either venture-backed or in a position to acquire venture capital in the near future. Segal believes the power of Perkins Coie lies in the firm’s ability to help clients structure e-commerce business relationships, untangle Internet law, protect intellectual properties, offer advice on mergers and acquisitions, assist with initial public offerings and deliver sound legal counseling and strategic advice. Some of Perkins’ Boulder-based clients include Pluto Technologies International Inc., POWERWorx Online Inc., ISP Cable and Silicon Valley Bank.

The desire to move closer to existing accounts and explore other potential opportunities in Boulder County is a big part of what prompted Perkins Coie’s to open a new office here, says Segal.

“The Denver/Boulder market is a healthy, expanding business base. This expanding pie should be good for everyone. We look forward to having our fair share of that pie,” he says.

CU College of Business Professor Sanji Bhagat says Perkins Coie’s move to Boulder is a good thing but that it is not of statewide importance.

“They will help some start-up companies and improve business for local venture-capital firms, but the impact may be felt more in the media than in real economic terms,” Bhagat says. “Most of the tax revenue and employment in Colorado are generated by large companies like ATT (formerly TCI) and Qwest, some of the recreational companies in Summit County, agricultural firms on the Western Slope and some mining companies. So how much a law firm that specializes in venture capital will affect Colorado’s economy is questionable.”

Although Perkins Coie’s new office may not create a change in the state’s economy, it will shake things up for other local law firms. One of Perkins Coie’s biggest competition for a slice of the Boulder high-tech pie is Cooley Godward. Headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., Cooley Godward has had an office in Boulder since 1994 and currently has 19 lawyers (13 associates and six partners) and more than 20 support staff in their Boulder office. But Perkins Coie also will face competition from Boulder-based Chrisman, Bynum & Johnson as well as Brobeck Phelger & Harrison, which recently opened a new office in Interlocken business park.

Until 10 years ago, Perkins Coie was best know for its work with aerospace giant Boeing. In fact, Perkins Coie was there when Boeing first got its wheels off the ground in 1916.

Today, no client accounts for more than 10 percent of the firm’s billing, says Perkins Coie Managing Partner Robert E. Giles. And the company’s client roster reads like an attorney’s high-tech wish list: Amazon.com Inc., Nintendo of America Inc., Yahoo!, Dell Computers, PhotoDisc Inc., Egghead.com Inc., Quicken Financial Services, RealNetworks and Immunex Corp. Perkins Coie recently was named as one of the top 10 legal resources for high-tech companies by “Red Herring” magazine. Perkins’ was the only law firm not based in Silicon Valley or San Francisco to receive this distinction.

Even with the firm’s high-tech success, Segal quickly admits that opening an office in Boulder isn’t going to be easy. “We’re at mile one of a marathon. So far, we’ve been successful in attracting the type of clients we want, but there’s still a long, hard race ahead.”

BOULDER — This city increasingly has become the destination of choice for out-of-state firms looking to capitalize on the county’s emerging high-tech economy.

Now, the Seattle-based law firm of Perkins Coie, with clients like Amazon.com, Nintendo of America, Yahoo! and Dell Computers already in their fold, is joining a growing list of global companies expanding their operations here.

“People work hard here, but they come to Boulder for reasons other than the cutting-edge entrepreneurial environment,” say Steven Segal, partner in charge of expanding Perkins Coie’s Denver office into Boulder County. “I definitely hear less about Boulder companies with cots in…

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