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Fenwick & West is looking at closing its 17-year-old Washington, D.C., outpost as the firm struggles to maneuver the continuing downturn in corporate work. Just days after the firm announced a salary freeze for most of its 250 staff members, Mountain View-based Fenwick is mulling whether to pull the plug on its capital outpost. Managing partner of the office, Jonathan Aberman, who joined Fenwick’s D.C. office from Pillsbury Winthrop in January 2002, has begun discussions of his own with several firms in the area, according to sources close to the firm. Aberman did not return several calls for comment. A source familiar with the situation said Aberman’s job hunt “clearly followed cold water being thrown on him.” Gordon Davidson, Fenwick’s chairman, said the firm had not yet made a final decision on the fate of the office and declined to comment about what options lay on the table. Partners are set to vote Tuesday on whether to pull the plug. “We have been evaluating a variety of strategies for our Washington, D.C., office over the last several months and have looked at a variety of alternatives,” Davidson said. Fenwick’s Washington, D.C., office originally housed a small Food and Drug Administration regulatory practice led by Bruce Mackler, who left the firm to join Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe in 1998. In 2001, Fenwick moved partner David Hayes to Washington, D.C., to jumpstart recruiting and business development efforts. The firm also transferred corporate partner C. Kevin Kelso to the office from Northern California. During his one-year stint, which ended in August 2002, Hayes oversaw Aberman’s hire. Hayes, who is chairman of the firm’s intellectual property group, declined to comment about the office. Kelso did not return a call for comment. The office currently lists 14 lawyers, including seven partners, according to Martindale-Hubbell. However, four of the partners primarily work from the firm’s California offices. Davidson said the firm hasn’t seen the increase in the emerging growth company work in the office that partners had hoped for. “While our firmwide practices continue to be strong,” Davidson said, “the market for financing emerging growth technology companies in the Washington, D.C., area is not as robust as it is here.”

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