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Philadelphia’s Cozen O’Connor isn’t just looking at the possibility of a merger to add practice area depth. It’s willing to go at it alone, too. The firm has created a government relations practice through the experience of existing attorneys. Jeffrey L. Nash of the firm’s Cherry Hill, N.J., office, and Raymond B. Harding of the New York office will head up the group, which will initially be focused around government relations work in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. New York partner Stuart F. Gruskin will also serve in the practice group, but Nash said that the executive committee of the group will include attorneys from other practices who may handle some government relations work for clients. The committee will include labor and employment head Mark Foley and Newark, N.J.-based partner Rafael Perez, Nash said. He said the firm isn’t concerned about starting the group from scratch because the attorneys involved have been doing government relations work for years without the official title. New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well as several agencies within them, have been clients, Nash said. There are also private-sector clients who could benefit from the formalized group, he said. Nash himself is active politically and involved with local public agencies. He serves as the vice-chairman of the Delaware River Port Authority and was elected as a Camden County freeholder in 1991, where he has served ever since. “Our firm has also had long-standing, credible relationships with people at various levels of government for the past 30 years,” firm President Patrick J. O’Connor said in a statement. “We are fortunate to have many attorneys in our firm who have worked in multiple levels of government themselves and represented public and private sector clients in significant government transactions.” Cozen O’Connor will represent clients in all aspects of the government procurement process including proposing initiatives, responding to RFP and bid solicitations, and resolving disputes. It will also participate in the public policy process on behalf of clients, represent clients in regulatory interpretation and compliance matters, and provide advice and guidance in connection with economic development and other government incentive programs. While there will be an initial focus on the mid-Atlantic region, Nash said the firm has an eye toward expanding the practice nationally. He returned yesterday from Los Angeles, where he was talking to Cozen O’Connor’s office managing partner there. Mark S. Roth is active in local Los Angeles politics and could help expand the practice to California. Firm Chairman Stephen A. Cozen has very close ties with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Nash said, and the firm as a whole has generally been active politically. David Sweet, who recently joined Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney’s government relations practice in Harrisburg, said that starting a group from scratch might not be easy, but if the firm has attorneys who have been handling similar work anyway, it shouldn’t be a problem. He did say, however, that people tend to think of government relations and politics as a little easier to handle than other legal practice areas. That’s a sentiment Sweet said he doesn’t agree with. “It requires a lot of experience and seasoning,” he said. While Cozen O’Connor has several clients in Pennsylvania that could benefit from a formalized practice area, the firm doesn’t have a Harrisburg office. Sweet said that it is important for a firm to have a base in Harrisburg if it plans on representing clients before the state agencies or General Assembly. Sweet said he has colleagues that travel from Pittsburgh or other areas of the state to handle government relations work in the capital, but they benefit by having a permanent foothold in Harrisburg. Sweet has seen a large corporate client refuse to use a firm’s government relations group because it didn’t have an office in Dover, Del., specifically. A Wilmington office wasn’t good enough, he said. One firm that does have a Harrisburg office as well as a government relations practice is Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen. Cozen O’Connor and Wolf Block have been in merger discussions for about two months, but Nash said the formulation of the government relations group had nothing to do with a possible merger. “Our discussions about a government relations practice preceded any discussions with Wolf Block,” he said. Nash did point to Wolf Block’s strong government relations presence in both Harrisburg and Boston.

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