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In Northern Virginia, a few firms beat the doldrums with a focus on full service, while others continued to retrench; and in Maryland, firms again demonstrated their hallmark stability. Reed Smith and Watt, Tieder, Hoffar & Fitzgerald led the pack in Northern Virginia with more than 10 percent jumps in attorney head count. But the effects of the tech sector fallout lingered. A handful of firms heavily oriented toward technology practices, including Pillsbury Winthrop and Cooley Godward, continued to hemorrhage attorneys in 2002. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner is the sole new entrant on the list, displacing Greenberg Traurig as the 15th largest law office in Northern Virginia. Finnegan opened an office in Reston in August 2002, moving nearly 40 of its D.C. lawyers to the new location. Northern Virginia offers practical appeal in terms of convenience and cost savings, says Finnegan managing partner Christopher Foley. International clients sing the praises of a location just five miles from Dulles International Airport. Rents are about a third of the cost of those in the District, and many attorneys who live in Virginia like the shorter commute, he says. Foley adds that the firm’s Reston location also makes it more visible to corporate clients. “Here, our neighbors are clients or potential clients, unlike in Washington, where they’re mostly other law firms,” says Foley. Shaw Pittman retained its top spot in the Northern Virginia rankings, growing by 10 lawyers to a total of 102. Intellectual property, insurance coverage, and Virginia real estate practices were stars in the firm’s ongoing success story in McLean, says firm managing partner Stephen Huttler. Reed Smith, whose 65-lawyer Falls Church location has been open for more than 20 years, stuck to a traditional recipe for success in Northern Virginia. “One of reasons that we survived and have done very well is because we’re full-service,” says managing partner for the firm’s three Virginia offices, James Gallatin, who adds that Falls Church is one of Reed Smith’s most profitable offices. The firm’s work is spread throughout bread and butter practices like real estate, litigation, government contracts, intellectual property, and immigration. “I like to say this is our most content and well-rounded office,” says Gallatin. WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR Piper Rudnick’s Reston office didn’t make the cut onto the list of the 15 largest offices in Northern Virginia this year because the survey period runs from April 1, 2002, through April 1, 2003. But look for it next year. Over the summer, the firm, which opened its doors in Reston in 1999, transformed its outpost there into a full-service office with the addition of 25 D.C. transfers. That brings the firm’s total number of lawyers in Northern Virginia to nearly 50. But that doesn’t mean the boom is back. The vacancy rate for Tysons Corner, including for sublet space, was 22.4 percent at the end of the third quarter in 2003, according to Bethesda’s CoStar Group Inc. That’s a giant figure compared with a historic low of 1.5 percent vacancy in the fall of 2000. The average asking rental rate was $24 per square foot, down from a high of nearly $36 a square foot in early 2001. In Reston, the story is similar. Vacancy rates have skyrocketed to 21 percent from a low of 1.9 percent in early 2000. Average asking rental rates dipped by more than $10 per square foot during the same time period to $22 a square foot. TOO MANY SQUARE FEET Some firms continued to contend with a space glut. In late 2000, Pillsbury locked in 83,000 square feet in a 14-story building at 1600 Tysons Blvd. in McLean. The firm relocated more than two dozen IP lawyers from the District to Tysons, but there is still ample breathing room. The office went from 69 lawyers on last year’s Legal Times 100 list to 50 this year. Cooley Godward also saw its numbers in Northern Virginia shrink dramatically last year, dropping by 19 lawyers for a total head count of 52. “It’s what we euphemistically call planned attrition,” says Joseph Conroy, head of the firm’s Reston office, which opened in April 1999. But he strikes an optimistic note. “We’ve come through some painful times in the tech sector, but we’re not as heavily dependent as some others on the Internet side or public capital markets, so we’ve maintained a robust practice.” The firm is now looking to expand its capabilities in intellectual property, and even practices traditionally the purview of full-service offices, such as real estate and land use. While the Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm vows to stay its original course — providing service to emerging and technology companies — it’s also exploring the government contracts area, says Conroy. “We think that we’ve ridden the economic cycle down and are well-poised as it bounces slowly back up,” Conroy says. MARYLAND FIRMS CHANGE LITTLE There were only a few changes in the rankings for Maryland firms, which continued to rely largely on steady, local client bases. The range in size among the 15 largest offices in suburban Maryland also remains wide. Rockville’s Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker tops the list with 77 lawyers, while the smallest firm among the top 15 is 13-lawyer Selzer, Gurvitch, Rabin & Obecny in Bethesda. Shulman, Rogers’ managing partner, David Pordy says the list reflects the stability of old-line firms in the Maryland suburbs. His firm has shifted its focus slightly in the last year, putting more resources into commercial litigation and less into mergers and acquisitions and intellectual property, but it’s hardly undergone a sea change — and probably won’t, says Pordy. “We’ve taken a cautious, measured approach,” he says.

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