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MCDERMOTT SNAGS COVINGTON RAINMAKER Über-litigator Bobby Burchfield surprised his Covington & Burling colleagues last week when he announced he was joining the D.C. office of McDermott, Will & Emery — and as co-managing partner, no less. Although the 49-year-old Burchfield had been at Covington — a firm that rarely falls victim to partner defections — for 23 years, McDermott offered him a management role, a more profitable partnership, and with 15 offices worldwide, an international platform for his practice. “The easiest thing to do would be to just stay put at Covington,” says Burchfield, who now heads McDermott’s D.C. office with co-managing partner Timothy Waters. “I’m too young to begin playing low-risk ball.” Waters says his firm approached Burchfield about a year ago, looking to beef up its litigation capabilities. Burchfield, known for his expertise in election law, “captured our imagination,” Waters says. But Burchfield, who helped halt the Florida recount in the 2000 election on behalf of George W. Bush and last fall argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in the challenge to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, says he gets regular calls from headhunters. He usually tells them, “I’m not interested in talking to people looking to buy a book of business.” Still, some of those clients are coming with him. While Burchfield is not sure if all of his client list, which includes the Republican National Committee, will follow him to McDermott, he says some have already signed on, although he declines to say which ones. But Burchfield says McDermott wasn’t just chasing his clients. They have a “strategic vision I would be a part of,” including the build-up of the litigation department. Vision aside, McDermott equity partners make, on average, about $400,000 more than their Covington counterparts, a fact not lost on Burchfield. “The financial aspect of this was certainly a consideration,” he says. “But it certainly wasn’t the decisive component.” After a year of negotiations, McDermott struck a deal with Burchfield, giving him the reins of the firm’s complex litigation practice and partial control of the D.C. office. But leaving Covington, the firm he joined in 1981 two years after earning his J.D. from George Washington University Law School, wasn’t easy. “I have deep roots at Covington,” he says. “This isn’t a situation of disaffection with a firm.” Indeed, Covington partner Mitchell Dolin says Burchfield will be missed. “We wish Bobby well and congratulate him on the significant management role he will be playing at his new firm,” Dolin says. — Marie Beaudette OPEN FOR BUSINESS June 11 may have been a national day of mourning to honor former President Ronald Reagan, but the work went on at most of the District’s large law firms. Although D.C. schools and the federal and D.C. governments were closed, only two of the 20 largest firms in the city shut down: Patton Boggs and Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner. Patton Boggs, which conducts much of its business lobbying Congress and federal agencies, usually follows the government schedule. Firm managers felt it was appropriate to close, says spokesman Brian Hale. Two of Patton Boggs’ large lobbying competitors, Cassidy & Associates and Van Scoyoc Associates, also shut down. Even though it stayed open, Covington & Burling had to alter its weekend plans. The firm planned for its 65 summer associates, including nine from the San Francisco and New York offices, to gather for a weekend of events. After hearing of the extensive funeral plans for Reagan, the firm decided to postpone the outing for a few weeks, says Catherine Dargan, co-chair of the summer associate program. — Marie Beaudette CHART TOPPER Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom is No. 1 — according to a survey of more than 2,000 directors of publicly traded companies. The survey by Corporate Board Member, a publication for officers and directors of large companies, says company directors would turn to Skadden first for advice on corporate legal matters. Covington & Burling was the only D.C.-based firm to make the top 20 list. It ranked 14th. Other firms with large D.C. offices in this year’s ranking included Jones Day at No. 7; Latham & Watkins, No. 10; Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, No. 16; and Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, No. 20. — Christine Hines SENTENCING STRUCTURE This week marks a significant change in the way criminal defendants are sentenced in D.C. Superior Court. Chief Judge Rufus King III issued an administrative order last week directing that felony defendants convicted after June 13 be sentenced using formal guidelines. Until now, Superior Court judges looked to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, defense lawyers, probation officials, and each other for guidance when deciding how to punish convicted felons. The new sentencing guidelines consist of two grids — one for drug crimes and another for all other offenses — that take into account the severity of the crime and criminal history of the defendant. Judges may depart from the guidelines, but must state on the record their reason for doing so. For now, the guidelines are considered a two-year pilot program. And so far, they appear to have received wide support from the criminal justice community, in part, because the guidelines are voluntary and still give judges a lot of flexibility when crafting a sentence. “I am delighted with these particular guidelines because I believe the process for putting them together was done with great care, great thought, and ultimately a consensus which will give them a legitimacy,” says Judge Noel Kramer, presiding judge of the Criminal Division. — Tom Schoenberg TRYING AGAIN A lawyer for 17 Gulf War veterans kidnapped and tortured by the Iraqi Army in 1991 says he may ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to rehear their case en banc. On June 4, a three-judge panel unanimously agreed to throw out a $959 million judgment against Iraq, stating that federal law does not give Americans the authority to sue a state for acts of terrorism. “It’s a long shot, but one worth taking,” says Anthony Onorato, an associate at D.C.’s Steptoe & Johnson who represents the 17 former prisoners of war and their families. Other options include attempting to refile the suit using other causes of action or petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, two other cases against Iraq pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will proceed, according to lawyers representing clients in those cases. Daniel Wolf, a partner at D.C.’s Sprenger & Lang who represents more than 200 American civilians who were kidnapped and used as human shields by the Iraqi Army during the Gulf War, says the circuit decision should not hurt his case because his clients’ claims are rooted in D.C., Kuwaiti, and Iraqi law. The other case, also being handled by Steptoe, involves kidnapping and torture claims brought by CBS reporter Bob Simon and a cameraman. — Tom Schoenberg GARDNER GROWS Gardner Carton & Douglas, the Chicago law firm with some 40 lawyers in its D.C. office, has hired health care lawyer and lobbyist Robert Waters as the first chair of its government relations group. Waters, a former chief of staff to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), had been a partner at Arent Fox. He leaves with four other Arent Fox lobbyists: R. Edwin Redfern, a former aide to Senate Finance Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-Iowa); Ilisa Halpern, a former director of federal affairs at the American Public Health Association; Christine Williams, a former lobbyist for the American Cancer Association; and Jackie Eder-Van Hook, a former special assistant to the director of the Agency for Healthcare Policy and Research. Waters, a telemedicine expert, had been at Arent Fox for 17 years. “Cicadian rhythm,” he says of his departure. “This was a natural fit.” — T.R. Goldman, Influence ATTACKING HACKING A Massachusetts physician has filed suit against Jones Day and D.C.’s Keller & Heckman in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that lawyers at the two firms hacked into his password-protected Web site. According to the May 28 complaint, David Egilman, a professor at Brown University who routinely testifies in environmental tort cases as an occupational illness expert for plaintiffs, alleges that in 2001 Douglas Behr, a partner at Keller & Heckman, broke into his Web site by obtaining a password without authorization. At the time, Egilman was involved in a Texas case in which Behr represented the defendants. Behr gave the password to his co-counsel W. Kelly Stewart, a partner at Jones Day’s Dallas office, the complaint charges. Stewart also viewed the site, which, according to the complaint, contained information from environmental tort cases. Jones Day was also defending a client in a Colorado case in which Egilman was an expert witness for the plaintiffs. According to the complaint, Egilman’s testimony was stricken from the case after Jones Day lawyers, using materials obtained from the site, argued to the trial judge that Egilman violated a protective order. Egilman’s lawyer, Cheryl Maier of D.C.’s King, Pagano & Harrison, declines comment, as does Richard Leighton, head of litigation at Keller & Heckman, and Stephen Brogan, managing partner of Jones Day’s D.C. office. — Tom Schoenberg PDA PROBLEMS The fate of BlackBerry, the wireless handheld communications device and a favorite gadget for lawyers, is in the hands of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Courtroom 402 at the appeals court was standing-room only as a three-judge panel heard oral arguments June 7 in a case that could decide whether BlackBerrys, made by Canadian company Research in Motion Inc., should be taken off the U.S. market. In 2002, a Virginia jury decided that RIM’s BlackBerry infringed patents owned by NTP Inc., and the jury recommended $23 million in damages. James Wallace, a Wiley Rein & Fielding partner, delivered the argument for NTP Inc. asking the court to affirm the District Court’s ruling. “You can’t predict anything,” Wallace’s partner John Wyss says. But, he adds, “we were happy with the way the argument went.” RIM was represented by lawyers from Howrey Simon Arnold & White and Jones Day. Alongside that case are ongoing proceedings initiated by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to re-examine NTP’s patents. A decision by the PTO declaring the patents invalid could save the BlackBerry products. — Christine Hines

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