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In a town where throwing a lavish holiday bash comes with the political territory, many of Washington, D.C.’s largest law firms are doing the unthinkable — bowing out of the extravagant party brigade. Instead of renting expensive locations where the catering budget alone can cost upwards of $30,000, law firms such as Covington & Burling, Kirkland & Ellis, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, and Dickstein Shapiro, among others, are taking a more low-key approach for this year’s holiday fetes by keeping clients and guests off the invitation list or holding parties at their offices. But that doesn’t mean that firms aren’t getting into the holiday spirit. Many are still holding parties outside the office, but few are including the extravagant extras. This year, Crowell & Moring, which has been known to hold talent shows and silent auctions at its annual party, rented out French and Indian fusion restaurant IndeBleu last Thursday for staff and attorneys to mingle over drinks and appetizers. Crowell partner Richard Beizer and others got the holiday cheer rolling before the firm’s office party by continuing the 23-year tradition of caroling in the hallways of the Pennsylvania Avenue office before the party. The singers ended their pre-party music with “Oh Holy Night” before leaving for IndeBleu. “We have a very large number of attorneys and staff that come. . . . There’s a constant flow of people,” says Toni Bruce, special projects administrator at Crowell, who planned the party. The firm invites attorneys and employees only. Patton Boggs and Dickstein Shapiro also went off site, holding parties at the D.C. Four Seasons Hotel and the Fairmont Washington, D.C., respectively. Patton Boggs’ party on Dec. 8 featured a disk jockey for the firm’s many avid dancers, according to Stuart Pape, managing partner of the firm. “As we got larger, [having the party at the office] got to be impossible, and the expense of cleaning up the morning after got to be prohibitive,” says Pape. The firm has 262 attorneys and 283 staff members in its D.C. office. Besides dinner, drinks, and dancing at Dickstein’s party on Dec. 6, the firm continued its initiation ritual for associates and lateral partners by making them sing a “revised” holiday song. In 2005 three lateral partners surprised everyone with their matching leather-jacket ensembles and singing “Baby, We Were Born To Schmooze,” says Michael Nannes, Dickstein’s chairman. This year the associates changed the words from “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music” to name their favorite things at the firm. Dickstein also handed out its annual Justin D. Simon Core Values Award to two nonpartner attorneys or staff. The firm’s former longtime partner died of leukemia in 2001. Reggie McKnight, an associate, and Kelly Neiman, chief human resources officer, won the award. Dickstein will donate $1,000 to a charity chosen by each of the recipients. Unlike law firms, lobby shops, trade associations, and corporations have continued the tradition of hobnobbing with members of Congress and lobbyists over heavy hors d’oeuvres and cocktails (think energy giant Southern Co. and freight railroad CSX Corp.’s holiday soirees at Union Station). And law firms with lobby shops also held parties. Washington state-based Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds did double duty, putting on a soiree for the Pacific Northwest delegation on Capitol Hill while also hosting an at-the-office party for attorneys and employees. The firm hadn’t done a congressional holiday party before, but Tim Peckinpaugh, a partner in the firm’s public policy practice, says the timing was right this year. “We’ve discussed doing it for years, and this year made good sense for us,” says Peckinpaugh. For the first time in more than 40 years, the state of Washington donated a 65-foot Pacific silver fir for the U.S. Capitol’s holiday tree. The tree lighting brought a large number of people into town from the state, says Peckinpaugh. The firm’s shindig on Dec. 5 in the Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building showcased wine and beer from Washington state and drew congressional staffers from the Pacific Northwest and members including Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), and Congressman-elect Bill Sali (R-Idaho). Preston Gates will also host its own firm holiday party Tuesday in its New York Avenue office — the last one held at the firm’s current location. Its merger deal with Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham went through last week, and Preston Gates is expected to move into Kirkpatrick’s space in Washington.
Anna Palmer can be contacted at [email protected].
Crowell & Moring’s holiday party. From left to right: Health Care partner David Florin, Government Contracts partner Marc F. Efron, Labor & Employment partner Trina L. Fairley, Litigation partner Keith J. Harrison, Senior Practice Technology Project Manager Jennifer L. McCoy. (Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/Legal Times)

Legal secretary Yvette M.W. Hall enters Indebleu for the Crowell & Moring holiday party.(Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/Legal Times)

Quinn Gillespie’s holiday party.(Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/Legal Times)

James H. Burnley IV (left), partner at Venable, LLP, and Robert Drummer, of Drummer & Associates, LLC and past president of the Washington Government Relations Group (WGRG), at the WGRG’s holiday party.(Photo by Julius Prince)

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