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SACRAMENTO — In an effort to make itself more attractive to clients, Foley & Lardner has continued its push into California by hiring a top lobbyist in the state capital. The law firm has been affiliated with the lobbyist, George Steffes, for seven years, ever since it merged with Los Angeles-based Weissburg & Aronson, which worked closely with Steffes. Now Steffes will close down his lobbying company, and he, along with his four-person team, will officially move under Foley’s umbrella. Besides Steffes and his team, Foley plans to hire a couple of more lobbyists in the coming months, said Thomas Driscoll, managing partner of Foley’s San Francisco and Sacramento offices. “It’s been an evolving thing,” Driscoll said. The firm currently has five lawyers in Sacramento. Steffes is well known in Sacramento. He’s been lobbying for three decades, ever since he served as Gov. Ronald Reagan’s chief legislative advocate. In the 2001-02 legislative session, Steffes’ firm billed $2.7 million for lobbying. His clients included Bechtel Group Inc., IBM Corp., American Express and Johnson & Johnson Services Inc. By far its biggest client was the California Healthcare Association and affiliated entities. Driscoll said the firm sees potential growth in several realms, including health care, resort and golf course development and energy and financial services. Before Foley’s 1996 push into California, Weissburg & Aronson was the largest health care boutique in the country. According to an annual survey of law firm revenues by Recorder affiliate The American Lawyer magazine, Foley & Lardner ranked 24th among the top-grossing firms in the country, with revenues of $452.5 million. Foley has about 1,000 lawyers in 16 offices nationwide. But lobbying isn’t as lucrative as legal work. Consultant Peter Zeughauser of the Zeughauser Group said a law firm’s lobbying practice usually “dilutes” profits. “There are not too many big firms like Foley that go into state legislatures to lobby,” Zeughauser said. In fact, most big firms don’t get into lobbying at all, he added. Only a handful of AmLaw 100 firms employ lobbyists in Sacramento, among them Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, Pillsbury Winthrop and O’Melveny & Myers. Most firms that do have a lobbying practice do significant government work. Also, Zeughauser said, state lobbying is not perceived as “learned” as other practice areas. “That’s the way it’s been, and it’s probably going to stay that way . . . [because of] pressure on firms to increase profits per partner.” Driscoll hopes otherwise, and sees a statehouse presence as a way to increase his firm’s overall value by allowing it to present a complete package of services. “It’s not ‘build it and hope they come,’ but rather it’s a responsibility to our clients,” Driscoll said. “We’ve found that it’s a very nice area of business.” Foley has lobbyists working in other states too. Besides the packaging of legal services, Driscoll said it just makes sense to bring Steffes on board because he and Foley already share clients. “It’s just a lot easier [because of] ethics considerations and confidentiality to be working with a single firm rather than multiple firms,” Driscoll said. “You really get to make sure that clients’ interests are covered.”

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