Field Fisher ramps up US focus with launch of Palo Alto base

Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW) has launched a representative office in Silicon Valley in a bid to clinch work originating in the Californian technology hub.

The UK firm is set to open its Palo Alto base today (3 September), deploying London privacy and information partner Phil Lee to staff its first office outside Europe. It has taken up space in the offices of existing client Woodside Capital Partners, a technology and life sciences-focused investment bank.

The firm will not practise local law, using the operation instead as a means of shoring up ties with current clients and winning mandates for its European teams from technology and biotech companies, investment banks and venture capital funds based in the region.

The move, approved in a partnership vote in May, is an initiative of the firm’s US strategy group, which has existed in its current guise since 2008 under the stewardship of City IP partner Nick Rose. The committee is a subset of the international task force headed by IP/IT head Mark Abell.

Rose said the launch was an “obvious move” given the firm’s traditional strength in the technology, media and telecommunications sector, with the firm already acting for Facebook and Google as well as online streaming group Netflix and gaming company Zynga. The US is currently the source of roughly 25 per cent of the firm’s overall revenue of £97.5m, putting the figure for the country at around £24m.

Rose commented: “We’ve got a growing number of clients in the Silicon Valley area. [The office] means we can get in touch with clients real-time. In many ways [Silicon Valley] is the networking Mecca of the US, if not the world. A number of partners visit the area on a regular basis.”

The firm said it would initially focus on sourcing corporate, technology, data protection, IP, digital media and litigation work, aiming generally at companies hitting the $80m-$100m revenue mark at which many technology players start looking to invest in Europe.

It is looking to expand the office to up to three lawyers if the launch is successful and said it was open to the option of associate secondments and trainee seats at the base, but has no plans to expand further within the US.

Lee added in a statement: “We also advise a number of ‘big pharma’ clients as well as biotechs and medical devices companies. We’ll be able to target US companies considering investments in Europe and to build on our existing relationships with clients in the region.”

The move closely resembles the strategy taken by UK rival Osborne Clarke, which launched an office in Silicon Valley for developing client relationships in 2000 (2 October 2000).