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For years, the law firm Heller Ehrman LLP used a goofy coat of arms inside its offices: a laurel wreath, the scales of justice and a Latin quotation, elvem ipsum etiam vivere. Rough translation: Elvis Lives.

For years, the law firm Heller Ehrman LLP used a goofy coat of arms inside its offices: a laurel wreath, the scales of justice and a Latin quotation, elvem ipsum etiam vivere. Rough translation: Elvis Lives.

In late September, Heller Ehrman went the way of Elvis. Just two years after its most profitable year ever, the freewheeling San Francisco firm expired, closing its doors after 118 years in business.

After upending a succession of U.S. industries, the recession has arrived for U.S. law firms, which have long seen themselves as partially insulated from economic downturns.

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