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In Washington lobbying, D.C.’s Covington & Burling stands out. But it stands out more for what it doesn’t do than what it does. Among the District’s largest home-grown law firms, Covington has the smallest lobbying practice. The firm ranked fourth in Legal Times’ most recent law firm revenue survey, grossing $144 million in 1999. Last year, the firm reported about $1.7 million in lobbying disclosure fee filings with the Senate and the House. For comparison: No. 1 Hogan & Hartson reported $8.4 million, while No. 2 Arnold & Porter reported $5.8 million. No. 3 was New York’s Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which reported under $1 million but has recently stepped up its lobbying efforts. Lobbyists familiar with Covington say the firm is somewhat disengaged when it comes to public policy. “I think they view themselves culturally as many of the New York firms have viewed themselves, and that’s that they’re a law firm, and lobbying work isn’t really a part of that,” says a lawyer-lobbyist at a rival outfit. But Covington’s Roderick DeArment, a former chief of staff to Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., says, “We’ve had a legislative practice since Covington’s existed.” The firm formalized that practice last year, putting DeArment, along with John Dugan, in charge. “In the past, we haven’t really drawn sharp distinctions that this is the practice of law and this is the practice of lobbying,” says managing partner Jonathan Blake. “It’s not compartmentalized. “It may hurt us in terms of public image because people say Covington doesn’t do a lot of lobbying,” Blake notes. “But, in fact, we do.” Part of being a major player in the lobbying world is having a star or a marquee name, a driving force, a legislative rainmaker. Patton Boggs has Tom Boggs. Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand has a collection including Dole and George Mitchell, along with its longtime visionaries Berl Bernhard and Harry McPherson. And Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld’s Robert Strauss steered his firm, in the early days, toward legislative work. To be sure, Covington does have an impressive list of former government officials: Charles Ruff, former counsel to President Bill Clinton; Gerard Waldron, who logged time working for Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and served as senior counsel to the House Telecommunications Subcommittee; and Dugan, who was an assistant secretary at Treasury under President George Bush. But lobbying hasn’t traditionally been an area of concentration. “It is not a huge percentage of Covington’s overall business,” DeArment says. “But it’s an important part. “I think we will grow, but I’m not sure we will ever strive to be a firm like Patton Boggs or Akin Gump, where lobbying really defines their existence.” Covington’s legislative practice now has about 20 members, most of whom share their time among other groups within the firm. A handful of those spend most of their time lobbying. Lobbying clients include the National Football League, which last year paid the firm $300,000, and the American Bankers Association. Of course, Covington’s not the only large Washington firm without a big lobbying presence. Howrey Simon Arnold & White, for example, has made no effort to build a lobbying practice, according to Robert Ruyak, the firm’s managing partner. “We haven’t had a strategic plan to go in that direction,” Ruyak says. “There’s never been high demand.” But Covington says it does have a demand and that it’s meeting it along with its clients’ legal needs. “I’d like to think that Covington would be known as an absolute first-rate law firm that does first-rate legislative work, among other things,” says Blake.

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