Lesli Gaither and Tom Clyde, formerly of Dow Lohnes, have joined Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton: Clyde as a partner, Gaither as counsel.
Lesli Gaither and Tom Clyde, formerly of Dow Lohnes, have joined Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton: Clyde as a partner, Gaither as counsel. (John Disney/Daily Report)

Media lawyer Tom Clyde has joined Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton as a partner, along with Lesli Gaither as counsel from Dow Lohnes, which closed its doors at the end of the year.

Clyde said he handles all types of litigation, with a focus on media law for print, broadcast, internet and cable providers. Cox Media Group is a longtime client, Clyde said, and he also does work for Cox Communications, the cable arm of Cox Enterprises, which is based in Atlanta.

“Frequently someone is challenging First Amendment-protected speech or some other form of communication,” he said.

Cox decided last summer to pull business from Dow Lohnes, sparking a shakeup at the Washington-based firm, which had opened its Atlanta office in the 1980s to handle Cox’s legal work. (The Washington office handled the regulatory work for Cox’s cable branch.)

In an unusual twist, Cox said it would continue using Dow Lohnes’ Atlanta lawyers, but only if they moved to other firms. That prompted the 29 lawyers in the local office to migrate elsewhere over the summer and fall before its scheduled year-end closure.

Subsequently, Dow Lohnes’ Washington headquarters was acquired by Cooley, effective Jan. 1, which shuttered the firm.

Clyde spent more than two decades at Dow Lohnes. He joined after graduating from Duke University School of Law in 1992, attracted by the chance to practice media law.

“I was very interested in how much First Amendment work Dow Lohnes was doing for Cox,” he said. His interest was sparked by a stint as a summer associate for a Boston firm, Bingham Dana & Gould, that did legal work for the Boston Globe.

He said Kilpatrick’s sizeable intellectual property practice made the firm a good fit for his media law practice, explaining that there is a tension between First Amendment rights and copyright protections.

The First Amendment prohibits the government from making laws that abridge citizens’ freedom of speech, but intellectual property law, deployed by private companies to protect their content, often does curtail individuals’ freedom of speech, creating conflicts.

First Amendment law is still a busy area of the practice, even as media companies cut costs, Clyde said. “I think it is always going to be an active area as long as there is speech in this country.”

Clyde said the intersection of First Amendment and copyright issues is a growing part of his practice. Copyright law has always posed First Amendment issues, he said, and copyrights are becoming even more of an issue as the Internet evolves, and content is more widely disseminated.

That made the Kilpatrick lawyers’ expertise in intellectual property law a draw.

Kilpatrick “is a firm that knows the content business,” Clyde said. “A lot of the intellectual property issues they deal with, particularly in copyright and trademark, are content issues.”

“They are a firm that has a wonderful set of lawyers and people,” he added, noting that four labor and employment lawyers from Dow Lohnes joined Kilpatrick in August.

The explosion of content being published because of the Internet has been the biggest change in Clyde’s media law practice, he said. “There is a far wider spectrum of organizations involved in publishing content in one form or another—and more Internet communications than a decade ago.”

Defending news organizations for publishing leaked information is also a part of his practice. Clyde said the documents Edward Snowden leaked in June on the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices to Glenn Greenwald, then a columnist for The Guardian, are a high-profile example, but that leaks spring up every day at a more local level.