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Five years after opening the doors to its first East Coast office, Silicon Valley-based Cooley Godward is extending its reach — into Washington, D.C. The new office, which Cooley leaders say should get off the ground in about two months, is being anchored with three lateral hires from DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary. They are Tami Howie, Michael Marinelli and Margaret Kavalaris, who formerly was co-chair of Gray Cary’s corporate securities group and headed that firm’s D.C. office. Joseph Conroy, who heads Cooley’s Reston, Va., office, will also take charge in D.C. He said that while the firm’s Reston office has specialized in technology and venture capital practices, the firm hopes to attract D.C. lawyers with regulatory, antitrust, government contracts, Federal Communications Commission and Food and Drug Administration practices. (FDA expertise would especially dovetail with Cooley’s biotechnology strengths, since companies often need regulatory advice after filing patents.) “As our technology client base has grown, we have grown to be a full-service national and international firm,” said Conroy. And, “It is certainly more difficult to call yourself a national firm without an office in the District of Columbia.” The firm’s Reston office has grown to more than 60 attorneys, and a handful will move to D.C., said Conroy. Cooley plans to hire about a dozen more attorneys to get the D.C. office off the ground. The announcement follows the arrival of a D.C.-based firm, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, to Silicon Valley. But recruiters say a number of Bay Area firms have been looking more recently to bulk up in D.C. — as opposed to Northern Virginia, which became a destination for California firms during the tech boom. Earlier this year, Larry Sonsini told The Recorder that Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati wanted to bulk up its regulatory expertise and that the firm was considering its D.C. strategy. Conroy wouldn’t address the timing of the announcement and whether, after years of speculation about Cooley’s merger plans, it had decided just to go it alone. “It’s nothing more than that we are intent about achieving strategic objectives,” said Conroy. Charles Fanning Jr., a legal recruiter with Major, Lindsey & Africa, said the office was good news for Cooley. “I think it’s an indicator that Cooley is going forward with their own internal business plan for strategic growth without relying on the merger,” said Fanning. “They are not putting all their eggs in one basket, and I think that’s healthy.” A consultant, who did not wish to be identified, offered a different interpretation: “It could possibly be another indicator that they are responding to a directive from a potential suitor or gaining an East Coast office to make themselves more attractive.” Other Valley lawyers were interested and surprised to hear of Cooley’s move. “They have referred their clients to us for Food and Drug regulatory advice for decades, and we have been appreciative of those referrals,” said James Snipes, a partner with Covington & Burling in San Francisco. “But they may be at a point now where they need to develop that capability in-house.” Still, Snipes said that only a handful of firms have life-sciences regulatory practices of Covington’s size. His firm boasts 30 lawyers, including Peter Barton Hutt, who sits on the boards of more than one biotech company. Meanwhile, Kavalaris responded that the specific strengths of the D.C. office would depend on who could be recruited. “If past is prologue, I think we can find and attract the very best in government,” she said. Marinelli concentrates his practice in federal regulation of international trade, both outbound and inbound. Howie focuses on corporate and securities law, including public and private debt, equity offerings, venture capital and M&A. Kavalaris added that although her practice has more IT companies, she joined Cooley from DLA because of its dominance in biotech. While she couldn’t say which companies would specifically utilize the D.C. office, Kavalaris said Cooley serves many companies “that need the government on their side or off their back.” Cooley Godward has 418 attorneys, according to the most recent American Lawyer rankings, in San Francisco, Palo Alto, San Diego and Colorado.

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