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To mark our 30th anniversary, we’ve reached into our archives to highlight key events and players who made a difference since we made our debut. A version of the following article appeared in the March 19, 1979, edition…
Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue is getting a divorce. The major Cleveland and Washington law firm is midway through the painful process of splitting into two firms. One, a new firm, will consist of most of the attorneys in the Washington office. It will be oriented to a Washington administrative practice, led by the government contracts work of Eldon Crowell and W. Stanfield Johnson. The minority of the group will remain affiliated with the “national” practice of the Cleveland-based antitrust and securities team. Behind the move lie difficult personal choices. The lineup of who goes where is not yet ironclad, and Jones Day members have cautioned against painting anyone prematurely into a corner. But it appears that the breakup will carry some 50 of the firm’s 82 members away to the new firm. Of the current 43 D.C. firm partners, about 27 are likely to leave, taking 24 of the 36 associates. DIFFERENT VIEWS The reasons for the breakup of the Washington office, at the bottom, are an incompatibility in style of the management and the type of practice desired by each group, and long-standing tensions between the two geographic power centers of the firm, exacerbated by recent events. Each side sees the breakup somewhat differently, but both agree on certain events. The Cleveland office and the “loyalist” group initiated the discussion of a separation. On the Cleveland side, attorneys see the process as amicable and logical, given the differences in viewpoint on firm management and practice. On the other side, some characterize events more darkly. They suggest that the Cleveland office, led by managing partner Allen C. Holmes, sought to wrest greater control over the historically independent D.C. office. Cleveland, they say, sought specifically to oust Crowell, Johnson, Roger Boyd, and Don Holmes, the principal government contracts specialists. Brian Elmer and Richard Mathias at one point appeared to be additional targets. The Cleveland office also wanted to slate former Office of Management and Budget director James Lynn as the D.C. managing partner who would succeed the aging Welch Pogue, 79, long the dominant D.C. partner. Those efforts failed in January, resulting instead in the forced resignation of Pogue and the installation of a Washington executive committee, composed of Crowell, Johnson, John Macleod, Phillip A. Fleming, and L. Graeme Bell. Allen Holmes next delivered what those now leaving considered an ultimatum, on Feb. 14, that the government contract partners had to go. (The date was dubbed the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, of course.) According to some of the departing lawyers, Holmes distributed an unexpected memo that day at the Metropolitan Club, arguing that government contracts work inherently carries the risk of too many conflicts. From that point on, separation in some form seemed inevitable. Over the last few weeks, the negotiations have continued over how to handle the split. For now, lawyers on both sides emphasize that despite the tensions and clamor, they continue to function as one firm. They are still legally one firm, with their clients in the fold, and the work being done. When the details will be worked out and the separation becomes official is still uncertain.
Update: Two highly successful firms resulted from this breakup: Jones Day now has billion-dollar revenues and 2,300 lawyers in 30 offices, including 211 in Washington. The other firm, Crowell & Moring, has 300-plus lawyers in five offices, including 264 lawyers in the District. The firms have clearly moved on, but there’s still a hint about the intense feelings from 1979 on Crowell’s Web site. “Like many lawyers we pride ourselves on our integrity, client relationships, and ability to win cases,” the firm says. “But that’s not why 53 of us left a major law firm in 1979 to start Crowell & Moring. We did it because we believed we could create a different kind of law firm. A place where lawyers could think differently. Act differently. Be themselves. What we are has much to do with what we are not: stuffy, arrogant, closed-minded.”

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