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Next to the walking wounded in Silicon Valley, the newcomers to the legal market in Northern Virginia may have been among the hardest hit by the economic downturn of the last 18 months. A few branch offices of national firms kept their lawyer numbers at 2001 levels by importing attorneys from D.C.; others were forced to impose layoffs or let attrition do the work for them. Shaw Pittman still maintains the largest office in Northern Virginia, and it is still 92 lawyers, thanks to a transfer of roughly 15 people from D.C. But last year’s silver and bronze winners in Northern Virginia, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Cooley Godward and San Francisco- and New York-based Pillsbury Winthrop, saw notable declines. Cooley, which back in the summer of 2001 became the first prominent firm to announce layoffs related to the faltering economy, shaved off 12 attorneys in Reston, about 17 percent of its work force. Pillsbury Winthrop lost several lawyers to competitors and transferred others out of the office, leaving 69 lawyers in McLean where last year it had 80. Paul Rothenberg, a managing principal and legal consultant at the McCormick Group in Arlington, says the shifts in Northern Virginia correlate fairly directly to reliance on the New Economy. “Lawyers who were heavy into the IPO market have very little of that business in their books right now,” says Rothenberg. “That is not to say that all M&A and transactional work is gone from Virginia — it is not. But it has slowed to the point where those offices that did not diversify when establishing offices here are moving more heavily in that direction.” The tide going out on the New Economy helped reveal the relative strength of the other kinds of firms, those that were getting surpassed in the last few years. Patent specialists Oblon, Spivak, McClelland, Maier & Neustadt, fifth in Northern Virginia last year, added just four lawyers but still jumped to second place. Its rival in the patent world, Burns, Doane, Swecker & Mathis, is now at 73 lawyers and is slightly larger than Cooley’s Northern Virginia office. Reed Smith, the Pittsburgh-based firm that absorbed Northern Virginia’s Hazel & Thomas in 1999, reports 59 lawyers in Falls Church as of April 1, up from 51 last year. Some of the growth in that office (and in D.C.) comes from the firm’s decision to close its Alexandria outpost and consolidate in McLean. But Benton Burroughs Jr. in the firm’s Virginia offices says Reed Smith had more than technology in mind when it came to the market. “Generally, the trend in Northern Virginia has been down,” says Burroughs. “While we have a technology practice like others, with us it was never widespread, even before the merger. We are still a full-service law firm. With very few exceptions, our Virginia office covers every facet of our law firm practice.” Another solid story in the market is Greenberg Traurig, which saw an increase of five lawyers in Northern Virginia at the same time its ranks grew by 14 in Washington, D.C. Lee Marks, the McLean office’s managing shareholder, says employment work has picked up the slack in the corporate department, and that the government contracts practice has gone from two lawyers to seven or eight. “As a law firm we are more committed to this market than ever,” says Marks. “Northern Virginia will again be a great market. It is cyclical.” Noting the presence of Dulles International Airport, the seemingly recession-proof government contracting business, and other strengths, he says, “it is hard to believe that this is all going to sit fallow.” Meanwhile, the Maryland market remained what Northern Virginia used to be — locally focused, stable, and fairly well-insulated from the economic changes buffeting firms competing on a national scale. Rockville’s Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker is still the largest firm, having grown slightly, from 72 to 75 attorneys. Most of the rest of the roster, from Greenbelt’s Joseph, Greenwald & Laake to Bethesda’s Lerch, Early & Brewer, is similar in rank and size to recent years. One notable shift in the list is the growth of Karp, Frosh, Lapidus, Wagodsky & Norwind, which is on the verge of becoming only the fourth law office in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties to reach 30 attorneys. Name partner Ronald Karp says the litigation firm has expanded to take on new types of cases, and often is brought into matters by sole practitioners and others looking for support. “We’ve broadened our base,” says Karp. “It used to be civil litigation and personal injury cases, but now it includes commercial litigation, real estate, and tax, as well as domestic relations, which is one of the biggest growth areas. Once you have a broader base, there is a synergy to getting the [practice] groups together.” Karp points to key additions such as Montgomery County Council member Michael Subin, who, after partner and state senator Brian Frosh, is the second elected official at the firm; business group chair Michael Sacks, who came over from the D.C. office of Cleveland-based Thompson Hine; and Chris Gordon, perhaps better known as a television reporter focused on legal issues, who is of counsel at the firm. Despite their differences, one point that seems to hold true in both the suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia legal markets is that fantastic expectations — in Northern Virginia because of telecom and emerging companies and in Montgomery County because of biotech companies — have cooled with the economic climate. San Francisco’s Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe, which placed a bet on biotech when it opened an office in Gaithersburg about two years ago, cited a lack of work when it decided to bail out. The office will shut down on Oct. 31. In Northern Virginia, says Rothenberg, “the real story is that all the firms that had significant amounts of space in Northern Virginia pulled out of those obligations or commitments.”

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