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US firm Latham & Watkins is opening an office in Northern Virginia - the start of a nationwide expansion into high-tech enclaves.
The growing technology market near Washington DC has already attracted several US firms to the area, including Brobeck Phleger & Harrison and Wilson Sonsini Good-rich &Rosati.
Lathams' move is the start of a planned roll-out of offices into technology corridors - with Boston and San Diego also on the agenda.
The Northern Virginia office will work closely with Lathams' Washington DC office and will initially be staffed by two of the firm's top partners. Corporate M&A partner Scott Herlihy and intellectual property partner Kevin Boyle will build the practice to at least 20 lawyers in the next two years.
Lathams' clie-nts in the region include Gemini Networks, America Online and Cogent Communications.
Washington DC managing partner Eric Bernthal says: "What we have found is that, as in Silicon Valley and its relationship with San Francisco and other similar developments outside San Diego and Boston, there has been an explosion in technology growth in the Northern Virginia area.
"It's really going to be integrated here in Washington and we have quite a lot of work for them. The high-tech companies are something of a new phenomenon because they demand services that are focused locally." The firm's other high-tech clients include Amazon.com, Global Crossing, Nintendo and Baltimore Technology.
Bernthal says that the firm's plan for the practice area is nationwide expansion.
"That's been our way of doing things for many years now. When we go into a practice area we go into it very seriously and on a national scale - that's really how we have evolved," he says.