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They came from Texas, Missouri, Illinois, and all over the country. Many out-of-town firms followed their institutional clients’ interests to Washington in the 1970s and 1980s, and most of them have followed fairly similar formulas for growth and stability in the nation’s capital ever since. Today, more than half of the top 100 law offices in Washington are branches of firms founded outside the Beltway and that still have their greatest concentrations of lawyers in cities from New York to Los Angeles. To one degree or another, all have tapped into such D.C. staples as international trade, regulatory work, or antitrust. But they have taken somewhat different approaches in their management strategies, as three examples suggest. St. Louis-based Bryan Cave reported having 57 lawyers in the District 2002, not much different from the 55 it reported in both 2001 and 2000. Meanwhile, things have changed dramatically in other markets. With the acquisition of Robinson Silverman Pearce Aronsohn & Berman this summer, the firm, which historically had its center of gravity in the Midwest, suddenly had 235 lawyers in New York and 850 overall. But it still displays some Midwestern conservatism when it comes to growth in this region. Rodney Page, a litigator and securities specialist in Washington, notes that the firm was never much inclined to plant a flag in Northern Virginia, saying, “We have tried not to take risks of great magnitude in the lateral market” in the District. “If we manage things properly, we can provide things in this office that growth otherwise might provide.” Page says the firm’s approach is “to have some practice areas here that are unique to Washington or are heavily Washington-oriented,” such as securities, antitrust, and white collar work. But the office is often working in service of Bryan Cave’s large institutional clients, including the Russian firm Sibirsky Aluminum, Denver-based property management giant Aimco, and the Boeing Corp. Page says that perhaps the most important factor for the stability of the D.C. office is the firm’s overall plan, a sort of decentralization that encourages lawyer mobility and the sharing of clients between offices. A few years ago, the firm decided to organize its practice groups in a way that would make such efforts as seamless as possible, and then did more than just talk about it. “We spent a lot of time and money integrating our offices and practice areas, so any one partner or office can serve as a portal to offices around the firm,” says Page. “We have 18 offices, and it is a huge expense and investment to be able to move work around. A lot of firms talk the talk, and I’m not pretending that we have it perfected, but we really have a global platform.” Seyfarth Shaw’s Peter Chatilovicz, who runs the firm’s 48-lawyer D.C. outpost, says the Chicago-based firm “really has a regional office concept. “We now have six offices that are in the 50 [attorney] range. . . . Each regional office is not viewed as an appendage, but as an integral part of the firm.” Nonetheless, the D.C. office has its specialties, and Chatilovicz says it is not leaning on work from Chicago or elsewhere. “We have a very strong regional practice, and to that extent we could stand alone. But we would not be as successful a presence here.” Chatilovicz’s speciality and a Seyfarth Shaw strength here, as elsewhere, is labor and employment and benefits work. But the firm’s construction practice (with clients including a few large area hospitals and regional heavyweight Clark Construction) has a D.C. flair, as does the government contracts practice. “We have great stability in those three areas, but we’d like to grow, be a little more full-service,” says Chatilovicz. Specifically, he notes that he’d like to move into intellectual property work and take on more litigation. “I’m happy with a 50-person office,” says Chatilovicz. “But I’d rather be a 75- or 80-person office. You can go from 50 to 75 or 80 and not make a lot of changes in infrastructure, so a lot of [the benefit] goes to the bottom line.” Fulbright & Jaworski D.C. managing partner Stephen Pfeiffer can quickly point out an obvious difference between his Houston-based firm, with 88 lawyers in the District, and other out-of-town rivals. “We’ve been in Washington for 75 years, so we are a little different from other branches of out-of-town firms.” The office’s growth took place ahead of the curve as well, in the years after partner Leon Jaworski became the special prosecutor on Watergate in the early 1970s. These days, the D.C. outpost “doesn’t feel in any way like a satellite office,” Pfeiffer says. “We have a number of practice areas which work closely with Texas. The areas where there is the most obvious integration are energy, litigation — which is serving us well right now — and intellectual property. The white collar criminal and securities enforcement capabilities for the firm are here in D.C.” While the D.C. office does work for institutional clients like the Houston Medical Center and Baylor University, much of the work in Washington, Pfeiffer says, centers on clients developed here, including the International Finance Corp. and South Africa-based heavy equipment sales and service company Barloworld. Like Bryan Cave’s Page, Pfeiffer says Fulbright was not looking to invade the tech sector in recent years. Firm leaders considered making a move in Northern Virginia, but “we declined to do it,” says Pfeiffer. “We thought we had the lawyers here, and we weren’t sure that Northern Virginia was going to be an enduring practice area for us, given the investment that other people were making. We also had our eyes on other things,” such as opening an office in Munich. As for future growth in the District, Pfeiffer says, “We are starting to think in those terms. We certainly have support for growth, as long as it doesn’t threaten the quality of our practice or our culture.”

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