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OUTSIDERS GET BIGGER 2006 is the year of the midsize firm, and four stood out. Of course, each had an exceedingly high growth in head count. But they also share other characteristics: Washington is not their founding city, litigation has played a huge part in expansion, and optimism abounds. Alston & Bird; Greenberg Traurig; Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft; and King & Spalding are the standard-bearers. “It’s like war, meticulously planned, thought out in great detail,” says Joseph Reeder, managing partner of Greenberg’s mid-Atlantic region, on attracting lawyers. “And then once that’s thrown out the window, you have to adapt and take advantage of extraordinary opportunities.” Whether it was planned or stumbled upon, Greenberg’s growth has been extraordinary. The Miami-based firm’s total count of D.C. lawyers went from 72 in 2005 to 95 in 2006, a 32 percent jump. “This year we’ve just been fortunate,” says Reeder. “We don’t grow by mergers. Most acquisitions are a �onesy.’ We find a lawyer and talk to that lawyer specifically about joining the firm.” Reeder says the litigation, real estate, and government contracts practices led the way, although the growth wasn’t held to those practices. Among the key additions in Washington were Thomas Galli (real estate), Robert Shapiro (litigation), Jerry Stouck (litigation), and Larry Harris (government contracts). “We are always running scared because there are many wonderful lawyers in Washington,” says Reeder. “We know that. And so our plan next year is to grow at the same pace — 10, 12, 14 percent would be right. But we’re not going to hire folks just to reach that number.” Alston & Bird, an Atlanta-based firm, shares that philosophy. Despite its nearly 30 percent growth in head count, Frank Conner, partner in charge of the D.C. office, says the year was a confluence of hard work and good circumstance. “All of this was sort of fortuitous,” says Conner. “We typically have a wish list and try to get those lawyers. But we don’t know how successful we’ll be and what can happen at any moment.” But unlike Greenberg, Alston didn’t rely on the single acquisition. Its defining additions in D.C. involved bringing in large groups. A finance team came over from Baker Botts, and a global-sourcing practice, which focuses on large complex transactions, led by Trevor Nagel, joined from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. The firm bulked up its securities litigation practice with the addition of Lindi Beaudreault and Jerry Isenberg. Alston also brought on a team of non-lawyers from Hunton & Williams who focus on trade policy and representing sovereign governments. Conner expects more of the same next year: “We don’t have any big plans. We’re going to focus on litigation and IP. Hopefully, we’ll make additions there and across the board.” New York-based Cadwalader has made additions everywhere and anywhere. When discussing the firm’s 16 percent D.C. growth in 2006, D.C. managing partner Raymond Banoun also mentioned the addition of more than 10 attorneys since April, the cutoff date for the LT 150 survey. The firm’s D.C. office’s overall number grew from 54 to 63 in 2006. But Banoun says the D.C. office, at this date, is in the mid-70s. “What we’ve tried to do is focus on growing the Washington practice in the direction of high value and specializing in litigation,” says Banoun. “I don’t know that you can say D.C. was a priority this year, or over the last three years. But you can say that we’re trying to target practices that do well in D.C.” Those practices are litigation, business fraud, antitrust, and securities. Banoun also says his firm’s growth can be attributed to individual partners attracting other lawyers to their practice. Steven Sunshine, head of the firm’s antitrust practice, and Bruce Hiler, co-chairman of the securities and financial institutions regulation group, have both excelled, says Banoun, since joining Cadwalader, and their practices have doubled in head count. “They came with significant name recognition and an important practice,” says Banoun. “And they’ve added to it.” Atlanta-based King & Spalding is at the precipice of being regarded as a large D.C. firm. With 20 percent growth this year, the head count stands at 129 lawyers, placing them on the outside looking in at the top 25. But not by much. “We are committed to continuing to grow at a reasonable pace,” says J. Sedwick Sollers, the firm’s D.C. managing partner. “And [we] would like to grow at 20 percent next year.” Sollers says the firm made key additions in litigation, antitrust, government investigation, and international trade. Among those additions were former Sens. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) and Connie Mack (R-Fla.) to the legislative group; John Bentivoglio, former co-chairman of Arnold & Porter’s Food and Drug Administration practice; and Laurie Clarke and Laura Loebe, both FDA partners who were previously partners at Hogan & Hartson. “We’re going to continue to look to grow in FDA and litigation,” says Sollers. “And we’d like to reinitiate our appellate practice.” — Nathan Carlile
EYE ON ASSOCIATES New York-based LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae shot up the charts this year, jumping 22 spots in the rankings to land at No. 55. The firm grew 37.7 percent to 84 attorneys overall and also marked the largest percentage growth in associates of any firm in the survey, at 69.6 percent. “Consistent with the strategy that the firm adopted when I first joined, to make Washington the center for the firm’s large-case litigation worldwide, we have been building in regulatory investigations, white-collar criminal prosecutions, class actions, shareholder-derivative litigation, and risk management,” says Ralph Ferrara, managing partner of LeBoeuf, Lamb’s D.C. office. The firm lured Ferrara, one of the nation’s top securities litigators, from Debevoise & Plimpton to the firm two years ago as part of its strategy to bring on board big-ticket lateral partners. Ferrara acknowledges that the market for lateral associates and top law school graduates is tight, but says that the firm’s Washington office has adopted an innovative program to aid its summer associate recruiting efforts. Some of those initiatives include asking each summer associate to co-author an article in a trade publication with Ferrara, paying summer associates their firm salaries while they work on pro bono projects for the month of August, and asking summer associates to research the business development opportunities of a Third World country and then funding a trip there for the summer associate to meet with business leaders and government officials. The program has been a success, Ferrara says. All of last year’s summer associates have accepted offers for permanent employment and the firm already has a “bumper crop” of applicants for next year’s program. — Alexia Garamfalvi
STAR LATERALS The D.C. office of Chicago-based Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw’s acquisition of two prestigious practice groups largely fueled its 42 percent growth. The office added 18 partners, 21 associates, and 11 counsel. In July 2005, the firm snatched Crowell & Moring’s securities regulation and enforcement practice, including the chairwoman of the group, Pat Conti, and eight other partners. Then, in January, the firm lured Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman’s prized six-partner, 13-person banking regulatory group, again including the chairman of that practice, Scott Anenberg. Having outgrown its current space at 19th and K streets, Mayer, Brown is in the market for new digs. Kenneth Geller, the managing partner of the D.C. office, says the firm continues to be in expansion mode, but he isn’t certain it’ll grow as fast as it did in the last year. Still, Geller says, the firm is always “exploring its options” and is looking to add to its tax, litigation, and international trade practices. “We are being opportunistic,” he says. Just last month the firm hired three international trade lawyers from Miller & Chevalier, including the head of that firm’s international trade practice, Duane Layton. The acquisition of a prized lateral group also kindled New York-based law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher’s growth. In February 2006, the firm snagged a five-partner, 20-person investment-management practice from Shearman & Sterling by luring the group’s head, Barry Barbash, a onetime Willkie partner, back into the fold. Barbash, who had been a partner at Willkie from 1987 to 1993, also served as director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Investment Management from 1993 to 1998. Among the fastest growing firms in the LT150, Willkie upped its D.C. head count by 47.3 percent to a total of 109 lawyers, after showing no growth in the previous year. Jack Nusbaum, the firm’s chairman, says the D.C. office’s compliance and enforcement practice, led by partner Martin Weinstein, has also grown significantly. Nusbaum says he expects to expand the office’s antitrust practice in the coming year. But Willkie’s D.C. office may soon lose its international trade law group. William Barringer, the head of the group, has said he is in talks with the D.C. office of Vinson & Elkins and that his 20-person team could move by the end of the year if those negotiations prove successful. — Alexia Garamfalvi
STILL DIETING Perennial chart-topper Arnold & Porter fell in size for the third year in a row. The firm, which still ranks third overall, reported 390 lawyers. At its height in 2003, Arnold & Porter reported 466 lawyers. This year the firm has continued to shrink, with its largest decrease in the number of associates, down 23. “My sense is that at all law firms there was some pent-up attrition during this time period,” says Richard Alexander, Arnold & Porter’s managing partner. “We’re not unique in that regard. We also anticipated some of these changes commensurate with some of our staffing needs on a large-piece litigation.” Alexander declined to discuss clients, but the firm’s work on fen-phen litigation as Wyeth’s lead counsel is winding down. Over the past two years, Arnold & Porter has shed lawyers in attempts to boost productivity. But, Alexander says that’s about to turn around. He expects growth this year. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld also felt the pinch in the 2006 survey, with its ranking falling from sixth overall to eighth. The firm’s head count fell by almost 6 percent in the last year, with 254 lawyers in Washington. Rick Burdick, Akin Gump’s D.C. managing partner, says the drop “probably just reflects lumpiness in our attrition cycle,” adding that today the firm’s head count is virtually flat compared to last year. — Anna Palmer
FALLING FAST Despite several defections that saw Spriggs & Hollingsworth’s D.C. head count plummet by almost 24 percent, name partner William Spriggs says the firm’s effort wasn’t akin to reshuffling deck chairs. “We didn’t really lose any of our capability in any of the areas where people left,” says Spriggs of the 55-lawyer D.C. office. “In terms of our manpower, as a result of our hiring, we’ve added about 13 lawyers this year, and we continue to practice in the areas where people left.” But while additions were made, they mainly served to keep a down year from being an abysmal one. With a net loss of 16 lawyers, led by the lateral departure of Charlie Leeper, who went to Drinker Biddle & Reath, and Stephen Spivack, who went to Montgomery, Ala.-based Bradley Arant Rose & White, the firm’s government contract practice took a hit. Other lawyers, Spriggs says, left for government posts and to work as in-house counsel for clients. “What would concern us is if they left for a firm just like ours,” says Spriggs. “Yes, our loss was a little on the abnormal turnover side. We hate to lose anybody. But we’re already adding five associates and talking to several partners about a lateral move.” New York-based Shearman & Sterling saw its head count drop by more than 20 percent, going from 70 lawyers to 55 in Washington. It’s the second year in a row that the firm’s Washington office head count has dropped. In the 2005 survey, the firm went from 75 to 70. The white-shoe firm has struggled over the past several years to rebound from the Wall Street downturn in 2000. Since then, its been hit by associate layoffs and partner departures. The firm dropped its D.C. associates ranks from 53 to 41. “Our office is actively pursuing opportunities to expand our practice areas and the firm is committed to increasing its presence in Washington,” says Jack Morris, a Shearman & Sterling spokesman. The drop is largely attributed to its top D.C. rainmaker Barry Barbash exiting with four other investment management partners and 15 other lawyers to Willkie Farr & Gallagher. The move hit Shearman hard because it came a year after Shearman’s antitrust guru, Steven Sunshine, moved to Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. — Nathan Carlile and Anna Palmer
HONEYMOON’S OVER While mergers usually mean a larger combined head count, the fallout of new management and conflicts can often decrease the numbers. Boston-based Bingham McCutchen’s takeover of Washington-based Swidler Berlin in March 2006 left the firm’s combined numbers down 16 percent, from 192 to 161. At merger time, Swidler had 115 lawyers and Bingham 60 lawyers. The newly-combined firm also dropped partners — going from 78 in the 2005 survey to 65. The decrease started in December after Swidler lost a 17-attorney energy group to Alston & Bird, including Swidler founding partner Steven Agresta. The deal also conflicted out two of Swidler’s most lucrative practices, which left in February. The 10-person bankruptcy group jumped to Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and the 9-attorney insurance group joined Heller Ehrman. Swidler also lost a two-partner merger arbitrage practice, which opted not to join the combined firm. “I think we’re through our digestion period here and we’re clearly in a growth mode,” says Neal Sullivan, co-managing partner of the D.C. office. Sullivan says the firm is looking to build out its securities and antitrust practices. The newly combined Kelley Drye Collier Shannon fared better with its head count post-merger. The firm was down just over two percent this year, with 108 lawyers in its D.C. office. Last year, the Collier Shannon office lost four partners and three lobbyists after being conflicted out of the merger. “We lost a few people on the Collier Shannon side and Kelley Drye as the result of natural attrition,” says Paul Rosenthal, D.C. managing partner. “The thing that has been good about the merger is we’re finding it easier to recruit now, certainly laterally.” Prior to the merger. Kelley Drye’s head count had dropped to as low as 29 lawyers. — Anna Palmer

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