Monday, July 31, 2006

Powerful, but discreet. Powerful, but rarely center stage. While Mr. [Larry] Sonsini is hardly a shrinking violet, he cultivates the image of Silicon Valley’s most ubiquitous supporting player, often preferring to say his lines behind the scenes. “It’s not my job to be in the newspapers,” he said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “I think my clients like me to be a trusted adviser with a high degree of integrity and stay out of the limelight.”

BUT many of Mr. Sonsini’s clients are currently in the limelight because of a growing scandal involving possible improprieties or illegalities relating to the backdating of lucrative stock options. Mr. Sonsini and his firm, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, based in Palo Alto, Calif., represents or represented “just under 50 percent” of Silicon Valley companies implicated in the scandal, according to a spokeswoman for the firm. That representation included offering advice on corporate governance issues like the proper handling of stock options.

Mr. Sonsini has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the scandal, nor is it even clear that he will be swept up in the investigation of questionable options policies that his clients adopted. But at least one former client that federal prosecutors have charged with criminal wrongdoing, the chief executive of Brocade Communications Systems, noted earlier this year that Mr. Sonsini advised the company on its stock options policies. The executive, Gregory L. Reyes, has declined to comment more recently; Brocade’s attorney described Mr. Sonsini as a “giant” and “brilliant lawyer.”