John Devaney
John Devaney ()

In its continuing effort to raise its national profile, Perkins Coie has named John Devaney as its first firm leader outside of its Seattle headquarters.

Devaney will be based out of Washington, D.C., when he takes the reins as managing partner on Jan. 1, 2015. Perkins Coie will keep its headquarters in the Pacific Northwest.

“It reflects our view that we are truly a national firm,” Devaney said Monday in an interview with The Am Law Daily, adding that he plans to travel to Seattle often.

Devaney, 56, will replace longtime firm veteran Robert Giles, who has served as Perkins Coie’s chairman since 1986. Devaney says he plans to build on Giles’ initiatives, including expanding the firm’s number of attorneys, profits and geographic reach.

“He allowed us to grow from a regional to a national and international firm,” Devaney said. “My primary objective is to keep up that momentum and allow us to provide the very best legal services that are cost effective to allow us to compete in this volatile market.”

Giles, who turns 65 this year, announced his intention three years ago to step down as managing partner at the end of this year, the firm said in a news release.

Giles praised his successor in a statement, saying: “We are very excited about this new chapter in the firm’s life, and we all look forward to continued growth and success under John’s able leadership.”

Founded in 1912, Perkins Coie remained a regional firm for most of its history but began branching out in the 1990s, when the firm acquired a string of smaller law firms in cities such as Denver, Boise and San Francisco. It implemented a strategy to expand nationally starting in 2002 with a Chicago office, following the relocation of one of its biggest clients, Boeing, to that city.

Perkins Coie employs about 904 lawyers in 16 offices in the U.S., as well as three offices in Asia. The firm has maintained an office in Washington, D.C., since 1979, where it employs more than 80 attorneys. Devaney had served as managing partner of the D.C. office, as well as on the firm’s executive and management committees.

Besides Boeing, Perkins Coie’s clients include large publicly traded companies such as Microsoft Corp., Intel Corp. and Costco Wholesale Corp., as well as a number of Silicon Valley technology firms and startups.

Devaney touted the firm’s strengths in its growing privacy and security practice—Perkins Coie represents Google Inc., Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Snapchat on a broad range of privacy issues—as well as its intellectual property and emerging company practices, among others.

“We have been known for our ability to provide a broad array of services in particular to high tech and social media companies and both types of companies continue to be high growth companies,” he said.

The firm’s gross revenue totaled $635.5 million in 2013, an increase of 4.5 percent from the previous year, according to the latest Am Law 100 data. Profits per partner were up 6.4 percent to $1.08 million, while revenue per lawyer remained flat at $740,000.

Devaney said he intends to stay the course financially. “We have no debt and are very financially secure and I intend to keep it that way,” he said.

He also said he plans to maintain the firm’s collegial work environment and unusual compensation structure with a four-tier partnership and large bonus pool, which have proved appealing to lateral hires. (Perkins Coie added 23 lateral partners so far this year and 21 in 2013, according to a firm spokesman.)

Devaney said the firm would continue to “grow smartly” in national markets but dispelled rumors from earlier this year that it had been in merger talks with Minneapolis-based Dorsey & Whitney. He added that Perkins Coie is not currently in merger talks with any firm.

Regarding Perkins Coie’s tradition of pro bono work, including its controversial decision to represent two Guantanamo Bay detainees, Devaney said the firm accepts its cases largely based on public interest. “Historically we have had a very strong commitment to pro bono and we will continue it,” he said.

Devaney’s own practice focuses on commercial litigation, political law litigation and communications law. He joined Perkins Coie in 1988 after a stint as a trial attorney in the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice and as a law clerk in the D.C. Court of Appeals.

He was named a partner at Perkins Coie in 1995, and has been lead trial lawyer in cases involving complex commercial disputes and in matters relating to enforcement of the federal Voting Rights Act.

Devaney graduated from Boston College in 1979, and earned his J.D. in 1983 from The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law. A native New Yorker, Devaney moved to Washington, D.C., in 1980.

He is cofounder of the Washington Lawyers’ Foundation for Children’s Hospital, which enlists financial support for the critical care unit of the Children’s National Medical Center. He also is an avid runner and former marathoner who still runs 20 to 30 miles per week, he said.