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FIRMS SAY 2004 WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR Those looking for signs of an improved economy need not look much further than some of D.C.’s largest law firms, which say that 2004 was a year of healthy revenue and increased profits. Hogan & Hartson, the region’s largest firm, reports that its gross revenue jumped 14.5 percent over 2003, to $630 million firmwide. In the District alone, the firm says, it generated $330 million in business and saw its local profits per partner spike an eye-popping 22 percent, to $905,000 annually. Firm chairman J. Warren Gorrell attributes the boom to higher productivity: After the economic downturn in 2001, Gorrell says, the firm made a strategic decision not to lay off any lawyers. Though that depressed the firm’s balance sheet while the economy was slow, Gorrell says the decision is paying dividends now that business is again strong. Meanwhile, Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner says its firmwide revenue grew 8 percent, to $224 million. Profits per partner at the 300-lawyer intellectual property firm grew twice as fast as revenue, hitting $886,000 firmwide, says managing partner Christopher Foley. After the tech bubble burst four years ago, Finnegan had been forced to shift tech lawyers to other areas of intellectual property. That work is returning, Foley says. Patton Boggs likewise claims a strong year in 2004. The firm says its D.C. revenue grew 9 percent, to $155 million, and net income firmwide grew nearly 12 percent. Profits per partner for the D.C.-based firm hit $700,000, helped in part by the fact that the firm’s number of equity partners declined slightly. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld says its D.C. revenue also grew nearly 10 percent, to $190 million in 2004. But its D.C. profits per partner stalled at $925,000, roughly the same figure as 2003. Though the head count at Swidler Berlin nearly halved since this time last year (and its New York office virtually vanished earlier this month), the firm says its profits-per-partner figure broke the magic $1 million mark in 2004. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom added 34 lawyers in the District to its 2003 total of 233. Skadden did not release revenue and profits data, but a firm source confirmed that an estimate of 3 percent to 5 percent growth was “in the ballpark.” Last year, Skadden had D.C. revenue of $204 million and profits per partner topping $1.6 million, according to Legal Times‘ annual survey of the highest-grossing D.C. law offices. That survey, which contains a more comprehensive analysis of firms’ revenues, comes out in June. Other large firms claiming revenue and profit growth in D.C. include Shaw Pittman; Steptoe & Johnson; Covington & Burling; Jones Day; and Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw. Among those declining to discuss their financial performance were Wiley Rein & Fielding; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; and Williams & Connolly. � Jason McLure FANNING THE FLAMES Woes continue to mount for D.C.-based Fannie Mae and its former top executives. Last week, attorneys representing the Wayne County, Mich., Public Pension Fund in a shareholder suit filed a request for a restraining order in U.S. District Court here to prevent Fannie from paying millions to former CEO Franklin Raines and former CFO J. Timothy Howard. The two resigned in December, after the Securities and Exchange Commission and the mortgage guarantor’s regulator, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, accused Fannie of improper accounting practices and false earnings reports. The suit alleges that Fannie’s board tried to “purchase [the] silence” of the two by permitting them to resign rather than be fired, allowing them potentially to collect millions in compensation. A Fannie spokesman declined comment. Wayne County is represented by San Diego’s Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins. Fannie has retained Seth Aronson of O’Melveny & Myers. Raines hired Kevin Downey of Williams & Connolly. Howard hired Steven Salky of Zuckerman Spaeder. � Jason McLure SECURITIES SNARE Last week, Arnold & Porter snagged six securities enforcement attorneys from Fulbright & Jaworski, including partner Michael Trager. “Our team is excited about joining what we think is one of the largest and most respected law firms,” says Trager, a former chair of Fulbright’s D.C. corporate department. Along with Trager, partner Richard Jacobson, a former SEC enforcement attorney; partner Charles Wenner, a former SEC corporate finance lawyer; and associates Joshua Martin, Kristina Guidi, and Michael Hausenfleck joined the firm. Trager says the move wasn’t related to questions that Fulbright executive committee chair Steven Pfeiffer faced over his role at Riggs Bank. Pfeiffer sits on the board of directors of the scandal-plagued bank’s holding company. � Emma Schwartz HABEAS HALT When Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled last week that prisoners challenging their detentions at Guant�namo Bay, Cuba, have no legally recognizable rights, attorneys for the detainees were quick to point out that Leon would not have the last word on the subject. Not only is the case likely to be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but also a separate judge on D.C.’s federal court � Senior Judge Joyce Hens Green � is currently reviewing the same issue in a set of related cases and could reach a different conclusion. But the Jan. 19 order was not even Leon’s final word on the case. Two days later, he filed a list of seven corrections. Unfortunately for the detainees, fixing the typos and grammatical errors did not change Leon’s holding that there are no circumstances under which a federal court could order the release of a foreign national in military custody outside U.S. borders. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr partner Robert Kirsch, lead lawyer for six detainees with cases before Leon, says the order misinterprets a 2004 Supreme Court ruling that federal courts have jurisdiction to hear habeas claims brought by Guant�namo Bay detainees. “If the reasoning of the order stands, then the Supreme Court sent the District Court on a wild goose chase,” Kirsch says. “We simply don’t think the Supreme Court would have wasted the lower court’s time like that.” � Vanessa Blum THOMSON TWIN Legal consulting firm Hildebrandt International is being acquired by publishing giant Thomson Corp., the companies announced last week. Terms were not disclosed, but Hildebrandt will keep its name and continue to operate as an independent business allied with Thomson’s legal and regulatory division. Bradford Hildebrandt, who pioneered the field of legal consulting 30 years ago, will continue to direct the business. He says his 35 consultants, based in D.C., New Jersey, San Francisco, Chicago, and London, would benefit from Thomson’s international platform. Kyle Christensen, a spokesman for Thomson’s legal and regulatory division, says the strategy is to purchase and pair up leading legal content and software firms to create new services: “The thinking [with Hildebrandt] is that they have incredible insight into management trends, that they really are a significant think tank in that area.” � Marie-Anne Hogarth, The Recorder COALITION BUILDING The drinks were tropical, and Celia Cruz thumped out of the speakers at the Smithsonian Castle for a gala billed as the “party after the parties” on inauguration night. The event, in honor of Latinos serving in the military, was hosted by the Latino Coalition. The sponsors, however, were more unusual. They were Western Union and its parent company, the First Data Corp., and WellPoint Health Networks Inc. Both companies have recently been flash points for complaints by Latino groups. Denver-based Western Union/First Data has promoted migrant and immigrant rights since settling class actions filed in 1999 that alleged the company didn’t disclose that it received better exchange rates for Mexican pesos than were passed on to customers sending money from the United States to Mexico. Danielle Pereira, a First Data spokeswoman, says that, while the evening marked the first time that the company participated in an inauguration event with the Latino Coalition, its sponsorship was not related to the lawsuits. Latino groups in California opposed Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based WellPoint’s $16.5 billion merger with Anthem Inc. last year, saying that the marriage of the two health insurance providers could make health care more inaccessible for the uninsured, including large groups of Latinos. The company reached an agreement with the state of California to pay $15 million into a fund for low-cost insurance for families. It didn’t return a call for comment. � Lily Henning WAFFLE IRONS Black customers of the Waffle House restaurants accused the company and its franchises of racial discrimination in lawsuits filed last week in federal district courts in four states. Four firms � two based in the District � are working on behalf of the plaintiffs in the cases, along with the NAACP and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs. Reed Smith is working on the Virginia suit, with Covington & Burling handling the Georgia suit, Alderman & Devorsetz handling the North Carolina suit, and Wiley Rein & Fielding handling the Alabama suit. Among the allegations: that restaurant servers told patrons they do not serve black patrons and that they deliberately served unsanitary food to minority customers. In a statement, Waffle House says it “has no tolerance for discrimination” and that the chain reacts “swiftly and decisively” if it finds any violation of its anti-discrimination policies. The suits come on top of 20 discrimination suits filed against the Georgia-based chain, two of which have been dismissed by courts, says Susan Huhta, a spokeswoman for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee. She says the plaintiffs filed separate lawsuits because “maintaining a class action in those jurisdictions have become more difficult.” � Emma Schwartz CABLE CASH Four D.C.-area legal clinics were lucky beneficiaries of $9.6 million in unclaimed money last week stemming from a $13.7 million class action settlement from cable giant Comcast. Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Public Representation, D.C. Law Students in Court, Legal Counsel for the Elderly, and George Washington University Law School’s Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics each received $2.4 million after the cable customers collected their money. “We have never, never received anything this large,” says Wallace Mlyniec, Georgetown associate dean for clinical education and public service. He says most of the money, which comes as an endowment, will be used to support a communications law fellow at the institute. Philip Friedman, counsel for the class, asked that unclaimed funds be set aside for legal aid programs. The clinics were chosen, Friedman says, because “they train future generations of lawyers who will protect consumers’ interests.” � Bethany Broida

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