GONE: Akin Gump— home to, from left, Joel Jankowsky, Don Pongrace, and Jorge Lopez Jr.—is hiring four health care policy lawyers from Patton Boggs, which on Sunday merged with Squire Sanders. (Diego M. Radzinschi / NLJ)
Patton Boggs’ last two weeks as the king of Washington lobbying ended much the same way the past two years have looked for the firm — with the defections of groups of partners and ­lobbyists.
Although a larger firm with sounder financials will exist in Squire Patton Boggs, chunks of Patton Boggs’ Wash­ington stronghold fall away when the merger takes effect June 1.
Its eight-lawyer Anchorage office is seeking a new home. Holland & Knight will acquire a group of Patton financial services partners. And four health care policy partners shifted last week to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, setting up a practice group that straddles public policy and regulatory business.
“We’re officially entering the post-Patton Boggs era,” said Ivan Adler, a Washington-based recruiter who specializes in working with lobbyists. “The Patton Boggs type of firm will not be seen again, where the legislative practice of a law firm dominated in Washington like it does.”
Akin Gump last week made the first laterals announcement since Squire Sanders and Patton Boggs ratified their merger May 23, and the move solidified Akin Gump’s standing as the largest lobbying department in Washington. The firm’s revenue will lead all other lobbying departments in town after years of Akin Gump and Patton Boggs contesting for top billing.
According to data collected by Opensecrets.org, Patton Boggs collected $39.8 million in lobbying revenues last year. But Patton Boggs’ overall lobbying income in the 2014 first quarter appears to be less than what it was last year, and at a step below Akin Gump already.
Patton took in $7.045 million in the first quarter of the year, according to Capitol Metrics, a lobbying database. Akin Gump raked in $8.57 million in the first quarter of 2014.
John Jonas, a Patton Boggs executive committee member and one of the firm’s largest lobbying revenue generators, with more than $6 million in publicly disclosed business in 2013, will lead the Akin Gump health policy team. Martha Kendrick, Karen Smith Thiel and Anurag Varma join him as partners. Senior counsel Richard Thompson, senior policy adviser Todd Tuten and independent counsel Lu Zawistowich will also make the move.
“Our goal was to make the premier health industry practice in the country,” Jorge Lopez Jr., chairman of Akin Gump’s existing health industry practice, said in an interview last week.
Edward Newberry, Patton Boggs’ former managing partner and a global manager at Squire Patton Boggs, said in an email the departures weren’t surprises, and that the new firm factored into its financial predictions the revenue the departing individuals would pull out.
That’s not all for groups leaving Patton Boggs. Holland & Knight’s acquisition of six partners in Denver and Washington will bookend its poaching of Patton partners, which began last July with two dozen Patton lawyers opening Holland’s Dallas office.
Five financial-services partners moved to Holland & Knight this weekend, the firm said: Norman Antin, Jeffrey Haas and Kevin Houlihan in Washington, and Mark Goldschmidt and Shawn Turner in Denver.
Patton Boggs government-contracts partner Mary Beth Bosco also joins Holland & Knight’s Washington office Monday.
LOSING THE ANCHORAGE OFFICE
In another loss of a practice group for Patton and possible coup for Holland & Knight, Squire Patton Boggs decided to close Patton’s Anchorage office in the merger, Newberry said.
A representative from Holland & Knight flew to Alaska on May 28 to discuss a plan for three partners and other attorneys, according to several people familiar with the discussions. The deal wasn’t done as of press time.
Last week, a fourth lawyer from Patton Boggs’ Anchorage office, litigation partner Barat LaPorte, joined Seattle-based Oles Morrison Rinker & Baker, affiliate publication The American Lawyer reported.
The Anchorage office, which was set up in 1995 to handle litigation and government-policy matters for Exxon Mobil Corp. in the aftermath of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, had 12 lawyers at its peak in the mid to late 2000s. It has declined to eight: three partners, three counsel and two associates.
Still, the litany of names leaving Patton Boggs likely isn’t over. Last week, Jones Day hired three prominent Republican election and political law lawyers from Patton Boggs’ Washington office. Benjamin Ginsberg, Donald McGahn and William McGinley will join the firm’s government-regulation practice.Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman is in talks with more than a dozen partners at Patton Boggs who are considering leaving the firm, according to someone familiar with the discussions. None of those moves would happen before the June 1 closing of the Squire Patton Boggs merger, the person said.
Dentons, which offered to discuss a merger with Patton Boggs while it talked with Squire Sanders, has picked groups away from merger situations in the past.
After a prospective merger between King & Spalding and New York’s Thacher Proffitt & Wood collapsed in 2008 and the latter firm closed, the lobbying-heavy firm that eventually became Dentons swooped in to hire 100 former Thacher Proffitt lawyers.
A Dentons spokeswoman declined to comment about the firm’s potential interest in poaching partners from Patton Boggs.
The question still remains, though, why partners left Patton Boggs in its last days.
Over the past year, many of the more than 100 attorneys who’ve left Patton have cited numerous reasons, including seeking changes in the culture or platform of a firm, as well as financial stresses the firm faced as early as 2012.
Of course, the merger situation presents the possibility of conflicts or other planned downsizing that forces partners out.
“Substantially everybody from both firms will be joining the combined firm,” Squire Patton Boggs chairman and CEO James Maiwurm said in a conference call on May 27. The conflicts, he added, “were fewer than expected.”
Maiwurm had said that “a few” attorneys would leave because they “don’t feel comfortable” with the change.
The Akin Gump health care lawyers were not among those conflicted out.
Contact Katelyn Polantz at email@example.com. American Lawyer reporters Julie Triedman and Brian Baxter contributed.