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They’ve argued more than a score of Supreme Court cases. This year they won the largest award in the history of antitrust enforcement. And they’re said to offer some of the highest starting salaries in the District. So why aren’t the lawyers at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd & Evans advertising their success? “They take a very minimalist approach to the practice of law,” says a senior D.C. lawyer familiar with Kellogg, Huber. “They focus on substance, not on self-promotion and the trappings of a Washington law firm.” With only 22 partners and 10 associates listed on the firm’s Web site, at first glance the telecommunications, antitrust, white collar, and appellate firm could be passed over as just another boutique. But it isn’t size that defines Kellogg, Huber. Started in 1993 by Harvard Law School classmates Michael Kellogg, Peter Huber, and Mark Hansen, the firm has become a magnet for Supreme Court and federal appellate clerks. Many are drawn to the firm as much for the intellectual challenge of working closely with some of the country’s biggest companies on cutting edge legal and business issues as for its huge starting salaries and extraordinarily short partnership track. (One lawyer puts the Kellogg, Huber partnership track at three years — well short of the average eight to 10 years it now takes to make partner at some of D.C.’s biggest and most lucrative firms.) A good part of the firm’s success in landing prestige clients and lawyers can be attributed to the star quality of its three iconoclastic founding partners. Huber, who by many accounts has a part-time role at the firm, specializes in telecom policy and antitrust litigation. The 50-year-old, who earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, heads the firm’s telecom policy and analysis group. He is also a Manhattan Institute for Policy Research senior fellow, a Forbes columnist, and an author. Among his works is 1999′s Hard Green: Saving the Environment From the Environmentalists, A Conservative Manifesto. In it, he writes, “. . . we have risen above nature. Not just to the point where we can destroy nature where we choose, but to the point where we can probably survive just fine in the ecological rubble.” He has also written Law and Disorder in Cyberspace: Abolish the FCC and Let Common Law Rule the Telecosm and Galileo’s Revenge: Junk Science in the Courtroom, among other books. Hansen, who represents embattled Arthur Andersen lawyer Nancy Temple, is making a splash in the white collar criminal defense bar, a practice area that observers say is becoming increasingly important for the traditionally telecom-centered firm. Like Huber, Hansen, 46, also has an author alter ego. He’s penned a handful of travel pieces for The New York Times and the book Royal Facts of Life: Biology and Politics in 16th-Century Europe. But according to lawyers familiar with the firm, it’s Kellogg who plays the biggest role in setting the firm’s direction. “Michael, as Reggie Jackson once said, is the straw that stirs the drink over there,” says a partner at another D.C. firm, one of a half-dozen people interviewed for this story who declined to be identified. A Stanford and Oxford graduate, Kellogg, 49, was an editor for the Harvard Law Review and went on to clerk for then-Associate Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist. He served for two years as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Criminal Division of the Southern District of New York and then as assistant to the U.S. solicitor general before departing for the D.C. office of what was then known as Mayer, Brown & Platt in 1989. Kellogg has frequently appeared before the Supreme Court. With former Mayer, Brown colleagues he represented the plaintiff in Lexecon Inc. v. Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach. The unanimous high court decision significantly altered the way plaintiffs lawyers handle multidistrict cases. John Thorne, senior vice president and deputy general counsel for Verizon, has used the firm as outside counsel since its founding. He calls it “one of the best” among his stable of outside counsel. He also knows Kellogg and Huber personally, having authored telecom treatises with the two, including a report on the 1996 Telecommunications Act and a 1,000-plus-page tome on federal broadband law. He describes the writing the three do together as “just for fun.” “They’re wicked smart,” Thorne says. “It’s a delight.” Lawyers who have opposed Kellogg, Huber in court are generally quick to praise the skills of the firm’s lawyers, as well. David Carpenter, AT&T’s principal appellate attorney on antitrust and regulatory matters and a partner at the Chicago office of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, has been battling Kellogg and name partner Mark Evans for nearly a decade. “They’re retained by big companies that have the money to hire the very best, and they hire these guys regularly,” says Carpenter. “I’ve enjoyed the scores of fights I’ve had with those guys.” The firm’s name partners, including K. Chris Todd and Evans, all declined to participate in this story. In an e-mail, Huber explained, “Thanks for your interest. I’m very sorry, but we are very shy and prefer to avoid press coverage.” Lawyers familiar with Kellogg, Huber say the partner’s hesitancy to talk about the business of law is unsurprising, given the firm’s cloistered approach to its management. CASTE SYSTEM? With 20-plus contract attorneys and nearly a dozen staff attorneys listed on the firm’s Web site, the firm’s structure isn’t typical for a small D.C. firm. “There is definitely a caste system there,” says the senior D.C. lawyer familiar with the firm. Another veteran lawyer at a D.C. firm with ties to Kellogg, Huber concurs. “With so many contract attorneys it’s not the most appealing business model to be talking about,” says the partner. In the D.C. legal market, most contract attorneys are hired to handle document review in complex contract litigation, says Law Resources President Robert Joseph, who has recruited temporary lawyers for Kellogg, Huber. Unlike staff attorneys, who are permanent, nonpartnership-track employees, contract lawyers typically do not receive benefits and are paid on an hourly basis. Few D.C. firms have the same ratio of contract attorneys to permanent lawyers, but Joseph says Kellogg, Huber’s work in appellate litigation and telecom demands the contract workers — and probably gives the firm comfortable leverage. In 1995, when Kellogg, Huber had 20 lawyers, one client estimated that the firm was probably earning between $8 million to $10 million annually. By all accounts the firm’s book of business has grown significantly since then, but it still counts just over 30 lawyers among its partner and associate ranks. When Kellogg, Huber’s founding partners opened their doors 10 years ago, they started out with a healthy but narrow practice representing Baby Bells in litigation and regulatory affairs. A $1.05 billion verdict in favor of Kellogg, Huber client Conwood Co. is one very big indication that the firm is breaking out of a telecom niche. The Memphis-based smokeless tobacco company is owned by another Kellogg, Huber client, Chicago’s Pritzker family, which also controls the Hyatt hotel chain. Conwood filed suit against the rival United States Tobacco Co. in 2000, accusing the snuff giant of breaking antitrust laws. Conwood alleged that between 1990 and 1997, U.S. Tobacco salesmen coerced store owners into prominently displaying its products and hiding those of competitors. In 2000, a Kentucky jury ordered U.S. Tobacco to pay $350 million to Conwood. Under federal antitrust laws, that award was trebled, resulting in the $1.05 billion award — the largest ever in the history of antitrust law enforcement. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear U.S. Tobacco’s appeal. In customary fashion, Kellogg, Huber did not tout its win in press releases or quotes in the national press. But the giant award didn’t escape the notice of the Washington Legal Foundation’s chief counsel, Richard Samp. The foundation sent out a release in January arguing that Conwood used “junk science” — one of Huber’s trademark phrases — to calculate its damages in a “garden variety business dispute.” Samp decries the Supreme Court’s refusal to review the $1 billion award, while still managing words of praise for Kellogg, Huber. “They represented Conwood the way I would expect any aggressive lawyer to do,” Samp says, adding that his biggest gripe with the case is with the structure of the laws that Kellogg, Huber lawyers were able to exploit. BRAIN TRUST Kellogg, Huber’s brain trust has charmed not only judges and clients, but also potential firm lawyers as well. Howard Shelanski, who spent two years as a Kellogg, Huber associate, says seeing Kellogg argue before the Supreme Court was a huge selling point. “Naturally, a young lawyer wants to go work with someone who is at that level,” says Shelanski, a University of California at Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law graduate who clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia. Once at Kellogg, Huber, Shelanski says he was immediately given the opportunity to work on substantial matters and encouraged to deal directly with clients. The promise of a lean, unbureaucratic firm that offered high salaries and the chance to work directly with some of the leading names in telecommunications law and litigation was impossible for Shelanski to pass up. “I can remember giving Kellogg a brief. He made it clear that it wouldn’t do, but he gave me instruction and mentoring,” says Shelanski, who left Kellogg, Huber in 1997 and is now a professor of law at Boalt Hall. That the firm was too new to guarantee stability wasn’t a concern, says Shelanski. “They made one very confident that they were going to succeed from the time they opened their doors,” he says. He acknowledges what is apparent to many of those familiar with the firm: Kellogg, Huber has room only for the best talent — and some of that talent drowns under the intense workload and competition. Shelanski recalls that the firm’s partners were clear about criteria for partnership, which generally did not include work as a contract or staff attorney at the firm, although there have been exceptions. But neither did it uniformly include a Supreme Court clerkship or diploma from a certain law school. “It got the reputation of being this place where you could only go if you came off of the Court,” Shelanski says. “What I liked about the firm and what was very telling was they had people who didn’t have gold credentials. The Supreme Court got you in the door there, but I can say to a certainty there was no hierarchy within the firm based on that.” Shelanski says what he found was more akin to a fraternity than a field of challengers. “It was amazing how cohesive the group of associates was,” Shelanski says. “Part of it came from knowing we really relied on each other a lot for advice — and the quality across the board was so incredibly high.” Another former associate says he found camaraderie at the firm, but also staggering competition. “It’s possible at Kellogg, Huber to not kill yourself, but it’s hard,” says the former associate, who graduated first in his class at a top-tier law school but, unlike many of his first-year colleagues, did not clerk at the Supreme Court. “It was a real charge to be working with such smart people, but there’s no question that it can be intimidating. It forces you to play your ‘A’ game all of the time.” During a recent debate on the Greedy Associates Web site spurred by a query about whether Kellogg, Huber was the “most prestigious” firm in the nation, one attorney posted this comment: “If you are going to define prestige as associate pay and clerkship, without any regard to breadth of capability . . . the ability to handle large numbers of matters simultaneously, and the opinion of fellow practitioners, then I suppose Kellogg, Huber may be the front-runner.” Another post on the Web site pointed out that “about half of Kellogg, Huber’s attorneys clerked on the Supreme Court and the other half clerked for the more prestigious federal appeals judges and have multiple publications.” Unlike many other telecom boutiques in the 1990s that overestimated future demand, Kellogg, Huber remained lean. The former associate who talked about formidable talent at the firm says that when he was at Kellogg, Huber in the late 1990s, caution about overhiring lingered. “They had this impression of themselves as a startup firm, that any minute business was going to dry up,” the former associate says. “They didn’t want to sit on their laurels.” THE NEXT GENERATION The associates who do make Kellogg’s cut are treated to top salaries and huge bonuses, say people who know the firm. Shelanski says that in 1995 he was offered $120,000 plus a bonus to start — about $47,000 above the average at large D.C. firms at the time. Now the gap between Kellogg’s starting salaries and those at other big firms is reportedly narrower — but still significant. According to a number of sources familiar with the firm, first-year associates with appellate or high court clerkships are being offered around $180,000 plus bonuses, compared with about $150,000 including bonuses offered by major D.C. firms to lawyers with comparable experience. Despite a sterling roster of attorneys, Kellogg, Huber could still face uncertainty when it comes to succession, lawyers close to the firm say. Part of extending a small firm’s legacy beyond its founders can come down to marketing, or branding a firm and its areas of expertise, says legal marketing executive Richard Levick of Levick Strategic Communications. Smaller and midsize firms are increasingly selling themselves through techniques that are decidedly more Madison Avenue than K Street, Levick says. But Kellogg, Huber’s Web site remains emphatically low-tech, its M Street offices modest, and its print advertisements difficult, if not impossible, to find. Unlike other small, highly regarded firms that have traditionally eschewed branding but have recently begun to establish succession strategies and assumed more aggressive marketing techniques, Kellogg, Huber hasn’t been making such efforts — at least not publicly, Levick says. Honing its next generation of leadership quietly might be the best strategy for Kellogg, Huber, says Levick. But some attorneys wonder whether the firm will eventually be forced to assume a more visible role. “If the younger generation is not being taught how to be self-promoting in an aggressive way,” says a D.C. partner who is familiar with Kellogg, Huber, “I don’t know what that means for the future.”

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