Dow Lohnes' Atlanta office is undergoing a shakeup after a major client, Cox Enterprises, decided to pull some of its legal work from its longtime outside counsel.
Dow Lohnes opened the Atlanta office in the early 1980s to serve Cox, which is based here. The firm has 30 lawyers in its Atlanta branch and about 80 at its Washington headquarters, according to its website.
Cox will continue using Dow Lohnes as outside counsel for communications law, such as FCC-related regulatory matters, but has decided to start using other firms for other types of legal work, said Cox spokesman, Bob Jimenez. Inquiries to the company's general counsel, Shauna Muhl, were referred to Jimenez, the vice president of corporate communications.
"Rather than utilize a sole preferred provider, Cox decided that it would build relationships with a selective but greater and more diverse portfolio of legal providers," Jimenez said.
Cox will continue using Dow Lohnes lawyers who do non-communications law work for the company if they join other firms, he said.
"We would expect to use some of the Dow Lohnes lawyers at other firms, if they leave Dow Lohnes and join others, consistent with our plan to diversify our portfolio," Jimenez said.
A senior partner in Dow Lohnes' Atlanta office, Peter Canfield, said "there is no plan to close the Atlanta office" in response to Cox's move.
"Some of our lawyers may leave in response to these changes," Canfield said. "We will help them and Cox in making that transition."
"The firm has many valued clients, including Cox, and will continue to serve all of them," Canfield said. He declined to say what work the Atlanta office does for clients other than Cox.
Canfield declined to say how the decision would affect the Atlanta office's staff. But recruiters are trying to place the firm's staff with other law firms.
Kasey Binder of Wegman Partners, a legal staffing company, said she was handling some of the outplacement for the firm's administrative and human resources personnel.
"Dow Lohnes had some great ones [staff]. They were like a family," she said. "It will all work out in the end, but it's rough."
Jimenez said he did not know if Dow Lohnes lawyers doing work for Cox have moved to other firms already. He declined to say what other firms Cox would engage to work on its matters.
"This is a process for us. I'm not going to get into how we staff legal matters and the lawyers that we use," Jimenez said.
Dow Lohnes' managing partner, John Byrnes, said he did not want to "speculate or comment" on the impact on the Washington office.
Jimenez said the firm's communications practice is housed in Washington. "Since we will continue using them for communications work, I don't know what kind of impact it will have for them."
Cox Enterprises, a privately held media conglomerate, reported 2012 revenue of $15.3 billion, making it the 10th-largest media company in the United States, according to the Institute of Media and Communications Policy.
The company has several subsidiaries: Cox Media Group Inc., which owns newspapers, radio and TV stations, including The Atlanta-Journal Constitution and WSB locally; Cox Communications, the cable and Internet division; Manheim, an auto-auction company, and AutoTrader.com.
The bulk of Cox's revenue comes from Cox Communications, which reported $9.6 billion in revenue last year. That is followed by Manheim ($2.7 billion), Cox Media Group ($1.8 billion) and Autotrader.com ($1.2 billion).
Dow Lohnes' local office is located at Six Concourse Parkway in Sandy Springs, less than a mile from Cox's corporate headquarters at 6205 Peachtree Dunwoody Road.
According to Dow Lohnes' website, its Atlanta lawyers handle corporate, real estate, labor and employment, trust and estates law and litigation. Litigators make up the largest group—17 of the 30 Atlanta lawyers—with eight listed as handling media or First Amendment law.
The Cox spokesperson declined to say whether the company would continue using Dow Lohnes for media law, which includes libel, First Amendment and open-records matters.
Canfield said Cox informed the firm "recently" that it is "transitioning from having just one preferred legal provider, which has been us, Dow Lohnes, to a portfolio of preferred legal providers."
Asked whether Cox is shifting the non-communications work to firms with lower rates, Jimenez said only that the move away from using Dow Lohnes is part of a "strategic review" that Cox started about five years ago.
Jimenez said the decision to transition to multiple outside counsel "may appear quick" to an outside observer but that "for us, it has been part of this planful approach."
"We've been slowly shifting work per that plan. As a result, we've reduced our reliance on Dow Lohnes," Jimenez said.