Shearman & Sterling boosts Silicon Valley with IP expert

Shearman & Sterling is beefing up its Silicon Valley office just three months after two top partners jumped ship.

The firm’s managing partner for San Francisco and Menlo Park William Hinman and business finance partner Kevin Kennedy left for Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in the summer.

Now the firm has started rebuilding with a new intellectual property (IP) partner who will lead the development of an IP practice on the West Coast.

Vicki Veenker joins from leading IP firm Fish & Neave, where she was instrumental in launching the firm’s Palo Alto office in 1992. Her clients include pharmaceutical giants Ciphergen and Incyte Genomics as well as Stanford University, and her practice focuses on biotechnology.

She has worked with a number of emerging and established companies which have helped map the human genome and which provide genomic-based drug discovery products.

During the next five years she will build a team of 20 lawyers in Silicon Valley.

She says: “I plan to develop a full-service IP group which will be in three parts – IP litigation which is primarily what I have done, patent prosecution and also transactional IP work. Those three pieces sit together well and I plan to get a bunch of good lawyers to do it.

“There’s an awful lot of IP work out here at the moment – it’s quite often harder for clients to find lawyers than for lawyers to find clients.”

She says she is moving to the firm because Fish & Neave does only IP work and Shearmans’ broader practice means there are a lot more clients around who are starting to need IP advice.

Shearmans already has an IP practice in New York boasting 15 lawyers who work alongside lawyers in the firm’s London and German offices. The practice boasts clients include General Electric, Oneida, Citicorp, Credit Suisse First Boston, Merrill Lynch and Bell Canada.

Peter Lyons, head of Shearmans Bay area operations and co-managing partner of Menlo Park, says: “You can’t be a serious tech player without a full-service IP presence on the ground. And the competition for IP lawyers is steep.”

Before Hinman and Kennedy left in the summer, the firm had decided to expand its offices in Silicon Valley and sent over three partners from New York. Along with Lyons, who is the joint head of the firm’s international M&A practice, capital markets partners Danielle Carbone and Marc Rossell were drafted in.

Until June, the 850-lawyer firm had just 35 lawyers based in California, but it is now shifting its growth strategy away from only Asia and Europe towards the high-tech market.