Wilson Sonsini offers dotcom equity to staff

West Coast US firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati is trying a new tactic to keep hold of its associates – offering them stakes in dotcom clients.

The firm is one of many in the Silicon Valley facing a brain drain as lawyers are attracted to start-up companies and their share option schemes.

Firms in the region have been putting up associate salaries and offering them bigger bonuses, but the move by Wilson Sonsini is a new step.

The firm has roughly 500 associates who will now be allowed to make individual investments in client investment funds.

Wilson Sonsini will have to hire more staff to handle its investment fund, but managing partner Alan Austin says it is worth it if it helps to retain young lawyers.

He says: “We figure that every time an associate leaves and we have to hire a replacement it costs more than $100,000. We live in a world that's really equity oriented, and our lawyers want to participate.”

Fellow west coast firms Cooley Godward and Brobeck Phleger & Harrison are also understood to be considering broader access to investment pools for associates.