Wilson Sonsini plans assault on UK market

Silicon Valley giant Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati is planning to enter the UK market by opening offices in London and Cambridge.

Wilson Sonsini, which dominates equity capital markets work in the US and specialises in servicing technology clients, hopes to establish a presence before the end of next year.

Chairman of the firm Larry Sonsini says: “We’re currently evaluating the market, and we’re very interested in Cambridge, but [the first move] will probably be to London.

“I’d like to be able to put a business plan together, have some serious thoughts in the next six months and hopefully do something in 12-24 months.”

He says it is unlikely that the firm will follow rival Brobeck Hale and Dorr with a move into Oxford.

Wilson Sonsini already represents high-tech English clients, including Biocompatibles International, S&S International and VideoLogic. It has handled initial public offerings for UK companies such as online business information company Maid and interactive software company Eidos.

Sonsini says that a move into England will also help it service its French client base, which includes Atmel, Dassault Systemes and Ilog.

After personally visiting England, he says he likes what he sees. But he does not plan to take work from local firms.

“I don’t want to go to London to compete with the UK firms,” he says. “I want to be a partner with them. I want to be able to serve the US technology company that wants to go there and companies there that want to come here.”

The firm will more than likely open the office with partners relocated from the US, where it has practices in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Virginia, Texas and Kirkland, Washington. It will then grow through lateral hire rather than merger.

Sonsini says: “Once we get established, we’ll be very opportunistic. But I think mergers are very difficult to do correctly. You can get very defocused with a merger and you can really lose your culture.”

see feature, page 24.