An increasing number of corporate attorneys are betting they will enjoy big business from some exceedingly small particles. But they need to know their science almost as much as their law.

Two law firms with a significant Bay Area presence have set up practice groups focusing on nanotechnology, the science of developing materials at the atomic and molecular level in order to give them special electrical and chemical properties.

The two firms, Howrey Simon Arnold & White LLP and Pillsbury Winthrop LLP, join a number of others in the Bay Area, including Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich LLP, Fenwick & West LLP and Townsend & Townsend & Crew LLP, whose counselors focus increasingly on deals stemming from this emerging scientific field.

What sets these nanotechnology practice groups apart from most other practice groups at large law firms is the high standard placed not only on legal knowledge but scientific acuity as well. Law firms seek attorneys with science backgrounds — including physics, electrical engineering, biochemistry and chemistry, which help give counselors a full grasp of the issues surrounding development and protection of nanotechnology-related issues.

While nanotech is still largely in its research phase, there are several examples of products that use nanotechnology now. Some of the best-known examples are scratch-resistant coatings applied to eye glasses and stain-resistant cotton used in clothing like Levi Strauss & Co.’s Dockers pants.