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Davis Wright Tremaine, a Seattle-based law firm with about 420 attorneys, will merge with D.C-based Cole, Raywid & Braverman on Jan. 1. In the merger, Davis Wright will acquire a boutique firm with 35 lawyers who largely represent cable and telecommunications companies. Cole Raywid’s attorneys will be folded into Davis Wright’s communications, media, and technology law practice, boosting that group’s number to 120 nationwide. Daniel Waggoner, the Davis Wright partner who chairs the practice, says attorneys from the firms have worked together on numerous matters for years and share a number of clients, including Discovery Communications Inc., Comcast Communications Corp., Charter Communications Inc., and T-Mobile. “We periodically asked them if they were interested in doing something [a merger],” Waggoner says. Cole Raywid brushed off such advances until last April, when discussions about a possible merger began in earnest. Davis Wright, a full-service firm with a heavy telecom and technology law focus, ranked 115 in The American Lawyer‘s latest AmLaw 200 survey, with firmwide revenues of $186 million and profits per partner of $360,000. Cole Raywid’s revenues per lawyer and profits per partner are on par with Davis Wright’s, says Cole Raywid senior partner Burt Braverman, although he declined to provide the firm’s numbers, citing firm policy. The merger will create a 455-attorney firm under the Davis Wright Tremaine name, with offices in Seattle; Bellevue, Wash.; Portland, Ore.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Anchorage, Alaska; New York; Washington, D.C.; and Shanghai. Davis Wright was far from Cole Raywid’s only suitor, according to Braverman. “Our firm has been courted over and over again in the last four decades,” Braverman says, “but we’ve never been interested.” Although the firm acknowledged that a merger was part of the range of possibilities it needed to consider in its strategic planning, it had yet to find a compelling partner. “Working environment and culture is very important to us,” Braverman says, noting that the firm felt like it had a responsibility to its lawyers and staff members, some of whom had spent their entire careers with the firm. “We liked our independence and we knew it would take a unique fit to give it up,” says Braverman. Nonetheless, as the firm’s clients grew, increasingly becoming national or international companies, and sought more integrated legal services, he says, the firm thought that having access to a wider geographic platform and a broader range of practices could help it better serve its clients. Braverman says both firms emphasize equity partnership as their model and have compatible cultures, making melding the partnership structures relatively easy. “We only had to do a modest amount of tweaking,” he says. Telecom lawyers say there are far fewer boutiques doing telecom work in D.C. than there were a few decades ago. “Telecom has changed dramatically in the last 30 years,” says Danny Adams, a partner with Kelley Drye Collier Shannon who specializes in telecom work. “It used to be all boutiques.” As telecom companies continue to consolidate, expanding into new markets geographically and into a multiplicity of new services, telecom deals are growing both in size and complexity, leading clients to seek out firms with more extensive capabilities, says Andrew Lipman, a D.C.-based partner with Bingham McCutchen and one of the heads of the firm’s telecommunications, media, and technology practice group. “We find it increasingly necessary to field a multidisciplinary team to deal with a kaleidoscope of changing issues,” Lipman says. This was one of the factors that motivated Lipman’s former firm, Swidler Berlin, to merge with Bingham earlier this year, he adds. For Davis Wright, the merger is a product of its ongoing search for growth opportunities, Waggoner says. “We wanted to increase our overall presence and strength on the East Coast,” says Richard Cys, a Davis Wright partner, currently in charge of the firm’s D.C. office, who will oversee the merged D.C. office along with Steven Horvitz, currently Cole Raywid’s managing partner. Davis Wright’s D.C. media work focuses on First Amendment, libel, defamation, and regulatory work before the Federal Communications Commission for broadcast and telecom companies, Cys says. For example, Davis Wright partner Robert Corn-Revere is representing CBS in its appeal of the fine the FCC levied for the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” incident during the 2004 Super Bowl. Corn-Revere is also representing ICM Registry, an Internet registry operator, in its efforts to promote a .xxx internet domain that would be used for adult entertainment sites. The office successfully defended Air America Radio in a defamation suit brought against it by CACI Premier Technology, Inc., a defense contractor, for remarks made by radio host Randi Rhodes that CACI had engaged in torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The case, which was dismissed by the Eastern District of Virginia in April, is currently being appealed. While Davis Wright counts many broadcast companies among its clients, Cole Raywid historically has been known as a go-to firm for cable companies. Its cable clients include Adelphia Cable Communications, Time Warner Cable, and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. The merger will more than double the size of Davis Wright’s currently 25-attorney D.C. office. Braverman says no decision has yet been made as to whether the D.C. office will set up shop in Davis Wright’s or Cole Raywid’s current digs or whether they will need to find new office space. “It’s pretty unusual for a Pacific Northwest firm to have such a big presence on the East Coast,” Waggoner says. According to Legal Times‘ latest LT 150 head-count survey, Seattle-based Perkins Coie had 36 attorneys in its D.C. office as of April 1, 2006, while Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds, the D.C. office of Seattle-based Preston Gates & Ellis, had 70. Preston Gates announced in September that it is in merger talks with Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham; that mergerwould bring its D.C. head count to more than 200 attorneys.
Alexia Garamfalvi can be contacted at [email protected].

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