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The automobile industry may be facing heightened federal probes, but that scrutiny has turned into better business for Detroit-based Butzel Long, which opened an office in the District last month. The office will house only a handful of attorneys during the first year and focus on litigation, white-collar crime, and labor and employment work. The D.C. office will also serve as a nucleus for the firm’s China practice, which is part of a larger alliance with three other Midwestern and Canadian firms. Hoping to capitalize on the increasing manufacturing interests in China, the alliance brought on Charles Freeman, former assistant U.S. trade representative for China affairs. Butzel’s move comes as its Motor City rival, Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, is downsizing in the nation’s capital. Founded by former Michigan Sen. Robert Griffin (R) in the 1980s, the D.C. office had a dozen lawyers at its peak in 1995. But profits soon dropped and so did the office’s head count, which is down to two this year. “D.C. has not been an easy market for us,” says Thomas Linn, the firm’s CEO. Linn says the firm isn’t shuttering its Washington outpost — at least not before the office lease runs out in 2007. So how will the new Detroit firm avoid a similar fate? Says Joseph Melnick, Butzel’s chief marketing officer, “We’re going about it completely different than they are.”
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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