The law firm offices that blanket downtown Washington, D.C., will, with a few exceptions for in-firm festivities, go dark on Friday as the city observes the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump.
Road closures will cripple much of the city’s central business district, including beyond the inaugural parade route from the White House to the U.S. Capitol. Even pedestrian access will be limited, both by security perimeters and by the expected crowds.
“It would be especially burdensome, particularly on our staff, to try to maintain our usual operations,” said Michael Ray, managing director of D.C.-based intellectual property firm Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox. “Every four years we have to assess how best to deal with this uniquely Washington situation. Our clients and friends outside of the D.C. area, especially those abroad, find it fascinating and are understanding of our need to close for the day.”
Though some closures start as early as Wednesday morning, most Washington firms say they’ll stay open through Thursday or plan to close on the fly.
“It could be National Tree Lighting-esque,” said Joanne Zimolzak, Dentons’ D.C. co-managing partner. “We didn’t close on that day, but if you’re stuck in that traffic, you sort of wish that you had.” The firm sits on K Street, a main artery for downtown commuters.
Greenberg Traurig, on L Street, will be generating some traffic of its own. It will host a private reception for “clients and friends” on Friday featuring Rudy Giuliani, a top Trump adviser and the firm’s cybersecurity practice chairman. Greenberg Traurig typically hosts an inauguration event no matter the president.
Dentons, too, will capitalize on its connections to the incoming administration, Zimolzak said. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich will headline a firm party, and will meet with clients at the firm’s Washington office throughout the week. This week Dentons partner Stefan Passantino revealed that he’ll be joining Trump’s administration in the Office of White House Counsel.
“Any time there’s a new administration, there are concerns” that clients have regarding business and the administration, Zimolzak said. The firm also employs two former Democratic National Committee chairmen, former Gov. Howard Dean and firm chairman Joe Andrew.
Crowell & Moring says it is setting aside ideology for its party on Friday.
The firm, one of the few law firms with headquarters right along the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route, has been planning its quadrennial Inauguration Day party for months.
“It’s just a nice, nonpartisan, great event for clients,” said Crowell & Moring chairwoman Angela Styles, adding that she looks forward to the food, drink and heated balcony every four years.
The Secret Service sweeps the building the day before the event so that up to a thousand attendees can navigate security barriers to visit the firm between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Could aversion to the new administration hamper attendance this year? After all, the firms operate in the heart of “the swamp” that Trump loves to deride.
Styles said she isn’t worried. “We just keep inviting people until we reach capacity,” she said. “It’s so Washington.”
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