SAN FRANCISCO – Law firms in the San Francisco Bay Area saw a rise in the number of lawyers following the surge in Silicon Valley startup companies.
According to The National Law Journal's (NLJ) annual survey, Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian benefitted from a 26 percent increase in the total number of lawyers in the firm in 2015 alone. This rise in headcount marks the fourth largest increase in percentage among the NLJ 500 law firms.
Robert Gunderson, founding partner at Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian LLP, pointed out the “long string of very good years” as one of the reasons behind the spur of lawyer growth in the area. He attributed the rise in the number of attorneys in law firms to the venture funding deals initiated in the district.
These deals, which pay particular attention to companies handling the technology and life sciences sectors, have attracted good businesses in the Bay area. Gunderson Jr. also serves as the chairman of Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian LLP where he has been working since 1995. His experiences include serving as counsel for venture capital firms, as well as public and private companies.
"We're the market leader, in some cases by a very large margin," Gunderson Jr. told the National Law Journal.
Gunderson Jr. pointed out that their position as the leaders in handling deals and contracts of venture capital firms, especially those that cater to tech startups, helped them with the recent progress.
"Historically, I think being in that leadership position is a good place to be, and I think that's in part fueled our growth,” he said.
Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian LLP, which started in 1995, was founded at the height of the boom of the dot-com era. Aside from becoming one of the leading law firms to take advantage of the emergency of this industry, they also started the trend of paying their associates with salaries reaching more than $100,000. This move eventually spurred the salary wars among law firms.
In 2015, Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian LLP once again emerged as a trendsetter in the salary wars when the bonuses they provided for their associates hit or even went about what is known as the “Cravath scale.” This scale, which they managed to match and even surpass, earned its name from the Cravath Swaine & Moore law firm. For the Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian LLP, the checks they released for their associates in December last year amounted to $15,000 to $100,000.
For 2016, Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian LLP aims to match the base associate salary of Cravath Swaine & Moore worth $180,000. According to Gunderson Jr., the move to increase the salaries of their associates is in line with the values advocated by the law firm.
"As part of the values associated with the firm, it felt like it was appropriate to share the wealth," he said.
Gunderson is not the only law firm to enjoy the influx of startup companies in the area. Cooley LLP, which represents big clients like Facebook, eBay, Google and CenturyLink, also experienced a six percent rise in its head count.
Another Silicon Valley law firm giant, Fenwick & West, saw a five percent increase. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, which Dow Jones VentureSource consistently ranks as No. 1 in the venture capital deals handled annually, also enjoyed a four percent increase in the number of lawyers in their firm.