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D.C.’s Trout & Richards was formed in 1996 by former Holland & Knight D.C. partners Robert Trout and John Richards Jr. The firm focuses on litigation, both civil and criminal, and is committed to providing high-quality legal representation at a cost in keeping with a small-firm setting. Joining name partners Trout and Richards on the firm’s roster are partner Amy Jackson and counsel Patricia Connelly and Elizabeth Fleming. Trout & Richards’ five lawyers are admitted to practice in the District, Virginia, and Maryland and appear in federal and state courts in all three jurisdictions. Why did you decide to start your own practice? For three reasons: First, maybe it was just a case of ’90s fever, but I had a yearning to do something entrepreneurial, to create something in which I had a greater measure of control. One of my partners at Holland & Knight, John Richards, had worked with me on a number of matters, and we had enjoyed great success in those cases, and it seemed to me that our skills really complemented each other. John’s father, a dean of the Alexandria Bar, had spent his career in small-firm practice, so I think John was genetically inclined in that direction when I suggested that he join me in starting a small litigation firm. Second, I have only the highest regard for my former firm, Holland & Knight, where I have many dear friends, not to mention my wife, Janet Studley, whom I met when my old firm, Dunnells & Duvall, merged with Holland & Knight at the beginning of 1994. Still, when I left in 1996, Holland & Knight was already a very large firm, and I didn’t think a large firm played as well to my strengths. With any large firm there are numerous distractions � countless internal e-mails, for example, or committee assignments or other management responsibilities � and I was simply not satisfied that I was maintaining my focus on the things I needed to be paying attention to and filtering out the rest. In a small firm, there are of course many management responsibilities, but it’s different when it’s your own firm. Third, conflicts. Resolving conflicts, and turning away business because of conflicts, goes with the large-firm territory. In addition to navigating conflict situations for my own matters, at Holland & Knight I was also responsible in the Washington office for managing the resolution of conflicts as they affected other attorneys in the office. I saw this as an increasing problem for large firms, especially as they grew, and I also saw it as an opportunity for a small firm. Tell us about your clients. We have a varied practice, representing individuals and corporations in complex civil and criminal cases. Some of our corporate clients are quite large, although the matters we handle for them typically are smaller matters. We have represented corporations in “bet the company” cases, although they are obviously smaller companies. We have represented corporations in white-collar investigations, but in general our white collar practice involves representing individuals, typically corporate executives who are caught up in criminal or Securities and Exchange Commission investigations. Happily, I have found that the work we’ve had in our small firm has been as fun, interesting, and challenging as the cases I had at a big firm. Where do you find your clients? Mostly, our business comes from referrals from other lawyers or from former clients. Our practice is limited to litigation, both civil � primarily commercial � and white collar criminal and agency enforcement practice (e.g., SEC). A small firm that does not do litigation might send us their litigation or white collar matters. Or an attorney with a large firm might refer one of its clients because of a conflict, knowing that we are very respectful of existing relationships. Or we might be brought in by corporate counsel to represent a co-defendant or a corporate executive because the referring attorney knows that we can represent our client’s interests while working collaboratively with counsel for other parties who have shared interests in the matter. And sometimes a lawyer from a large firm might refer a matter because it is simply not the sort of case that the large firm handles. I am pleased to say we have also gotten repeat business from clients who have been happy with our other work for them. How do you measure business success? We don’t do the green-eye-shade thing very well. I would say that our budgeting and financial planning has been evolving, and some days I wake up thinking we need to work on that, but I would be the first to admit that I would like someone else to wear the green eye shade. Although we should probably be more rigorous in our planning, we have been financially successful, we send our bills out promptly, we have always paid our bills on time, and we’ve never drawn on our line of credit. Perhaps for that reason we’ve never been forced to ponder the precise numbers we need to produce in order to succeed. Clearly, it’s something we should do even if it’s not something we have had to do to make ends meet. Most of our cases are straight hourly cases, which may explain why we have not had cash flow problems. We do take on contingent fee matters if we think it makes good business sense to do so, but we are selective and try to maintain a balance. We are willing for a fee to be contingent on the outcome in a given case, but we don’t want to be in a situation where the financial success of our firm is contingent on the outcome of a case. In keeping with the fact that our budgeting and planning has not been as rigorous as what other firms might undertake, we do not have billable-hour targets or quotas. Our general philosophy is that our work should be a function of the client’s needs rather than the firm’s. In a small firm, no one needs to be reminded that hard work has a direct and noticeable impact on each lawyer’s personal financial success. What challenges to your practice do you foresee in the future? To borrow a sports analogy, the challenge for a winning team is to maintain team chemistry. When you introduce low doses of toxins into the bloodstream of a large institution, it can go largely unnoticed. But if you do it in a small firm such as ours, it can prove fatal. We have an excellent group here, and our staff is as competent as any you’ll find anywhere. Our lawyers are bright, experienced, and creative. They understand the value of effective writing, and they have sound litigation instincts. We are all very compatible and are generally on the same page, both in how to practice law and in how we would like our firm to be. When so many lawyers are dissatisfied in their professional lives, I think we are really fortunate to have been able to create an environment where everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. We do have our idiosyncrasies, of course, so if we were to expand our business base by bringing in one or more lateral attorneys � and I do think about that from time to time � not only would we have to lease additional space, but also we would need to make sure we did not upset the good karma we currently enjoy.

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