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To call Washington, D.C.’s Howrey Simon Arnold & White aggressive would be an understatement. Less than a year after the merger of D.C.’s Howrey & Simon and Houston’s Arnold, White & Durkee, the combined firm is in expansion mode yet again — preparing to simultaneously open offices in London and Brussels early next year. In Britain, key talent has already been signed. Jacobus “Koos” Rasser, former chief patent attorney at The Procter & Gamble Co. will head the office, which will focus primarily on intellectual property. In Belgium, where Howrey plans to build an international competition practice, the firm is in serious discussions with several attorneys, according to managing partner Robert Ruyak. “This isn’t a trial balloon for us. We didn’t want to go in, rent some space, and see who rings the doorbell,” Ruyak says. “We’re going in with our strengths.” Howrey’s growth trajectory over the past 10 months is impressive. The native D.C. firm has added approximately 130 lawyers and four new offices since January, and has seen revenue climb from $171 million in 1999 to an estimated $240 million in 2000. Just months after absorbing approximately 100 IP attorneys from Arnold White in February, Howrey landed a 25-lawyer antitrust team from D.C.’s Collier, Shannon, Rill & Scott, including name partner and former Justice Department antitrust chief James Rill. In the coming year, Ruyak says, the firm has plans to grow to 600 lawyers and open a new office in Northern Virginia. With the additions, it’s hard not to wonder if Howrey has bitten off more than it can chew. But partners say they feel secure that firm leaders are proceeding with care. “Clearly, Howrey is growing very rapidly. But if it’s going to remain at the top of the heap, it had to go to Europe,” says antitrust litigator William Reynolds, who joined Howrey with the Collier Shannon contingent in April. “Management has covered its bases extremely thoroughly.” WORLD SERIES Indeed, foreign expansion has been at the top of Howrey’s to-do list for several months. In March, Rasser dropped by the firm’s D.C. headquarters just as preliminary plans were taking shape. Procter & Gamble regularly tapped Howrey for intellectual property litigation, and Rasser was interested in learning more about the firm’s recent merger, he says. His lawyer, executive committee co-chairman Mark Wegener, began asking Rasser for his input on a Howrey office in London. “There was suddenly a lot of energy in the room, and people were talking very excitedly,” Rasser recalls. “I got so caught up in the conversation, I blurted out, ‘I wish I could be there.’ “I went home and told my wife, ‘It’s like someone read my r�sum� and created a job to make the perfect match,’ ” he adds. Howrey was equally interested in recruiting Rasser. A Dutch-born, U.S.-trained intellectual property lawyer, fluent in four languages, Rasser spent more than two decades with Procter & Gamble on both sides of the Atlantic. For nearly 10 years, he served as vice president and general counsel of company patents worldwide. In 1998, he helped start the National Patent Board, a private patent court for resolving infringement disputes. Rasser joined Howrey as a partner in August and temporarily lives in Washington. He has spent much of the past three months meeting with clients, new colleagues, and potential recruits. Although the London office will open with approximately five intellectual property attorneys, Howrey has leased space to accommodate as many as 22. And as the European Union moves to centralize its patent and trademark systems, Howrey says he hopes that U.S. clients will turn to the London-based team for their IP litigation across Europe. Firm lawyers have already taken on some litigation in Europe for existing clients since announcing their plans to open the new offices, Wegener notes. “I think U.S. companies feel somewhat adrift when they have IP issues in Europe. Who do you retain? Where do you file? How do you coordinate related litigation in different countries? We’re going to provide that for them,” he says. Howrey’s plans in Brussels are a step behind the firm’s London charge. The firm has neither leased space nor landed a star attorney, although it expects to do both shortly and to open the outpost in early 2001. The co-chairmen of Howrey’s antitrust practice — Rill and longtime firm partner John Briggs III — first travelled to Brussels to meet with potential recruits in July. The addition of Rill and the Collier Shannon group was a major impetus for opening the office, Briggs notes. “I personally promised Jim Rill during our negotiations that he and I would work together with all deliberate speed to open in Brussels,” he says. But Howrey’s competitors and industry consultants are quick to note the pitfalls of rapid overseas expansion. “The biggest challenge is making sure the lawyers remain well-connected to the U.S. offices,” says R. Bruce McLean, chairman of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. “There can be substantial cultural differences you have to be aware of and work to accommodate.” Susan Manch, a consultant with D.C.’s Shannon & Manch, adds that as firms expand, they must not neglect their attorneys at home. “The big firms are all struggling with issues of communication and internal management,” Manch says. “Some firms are able to do it better, because when they were smaller they had all these things in place and they were careful to protect them as they grew larger.” WAVE MACHINE The recent expansion is not the first time Howrey has tackled a major restructuring. Founded in 1956 as an antitrust shop, Howrey hit hard times in the early 1980s when antitrust work evaporated under the Reagan administration. Losing lawyers, the firm pulled a remarkable turnaround — diversifying into new areas and redefining itself as a litigation powerhouse. Ruyak, just 36 years old at the time, drafted the report behind the firm’s growth in the late 1980s. He knows from experience that any dramatic change is bound to ruffle a few feathers. “When you’re restructuring a law firm, everybody isn’t going to be happy. There are things you have to do that everyone isn’t going to agree with,” he says. “You’re going to create some waves. There’s no other way you can do it.” He asserts that the firm’s recent moves — the Arnold White merger, the Collier Shannon acquisition, the European offices, even the shedding of a few practice groups that didn’t fit into the firm’s long-term agenda — are all part of the firm’s strategic plan. “If you don’t have a plan, it’s like building without a blueprint. There’s no scheme to it. It’s all hodgepodge,” Ruyak says. At Howrey, one comes to realize, the “strategic plan” is more than the latest trend in law firm management — it’s practically a religion. For months in late 1998 and early 1999, the firm’s executive committee worked on a strategic plan. After nearly a year of meetings, studies, questionnaires, consultants, and soul-searching, firm leaders articulated the objectives they have been pursuing since. Generally speaking, the firm’s aim has been to rapidly build its corporate litigation, intellectual property, and antitrust practices while growing significantly larger and expanding geographically. As Ruyak concedes, it has not been painless. But so far at least, the moves seem to be paying off. After initial rumblings of discontent, the merger with Arnold White seems to have gained support among firm lawyers. Rank-and-file partners at Howrey learned they were about to merge only 24 hours before the general public did. Not all were happy about it, and a number of D.C.-based intellectual property lawyers have left as a result. Arnold White’s approximately 40-lawyer Austin office opted out of the merger, fueling early reports of discord. The majority of the Austin lawyers joined the local office of Houston’s Fulbright & Jaworski. According to one Austin partner now with Fulbright, the rift developed because Arnold White’s nonlitigators — nearly 50 percent of the Austin office — would likely have been left out of the deal. Rather than split up, Austin partners, including top IP trial lawyer and office patriarch Louis Pirkey, decided to find a new home for everyone. “A lot of credibility would have come had they been successful in convincing Pirkey to come to Howrey, but given the congenial atmosphere of the [Austin] office, we decided it was all or nothing,” says the Austin lawyer, who spoke on the condition that his name not be revealed. Though perhaps smaller than expected, the combination solidified the new firm’s position as an intellectual property leader. In a survey of Fortune 250 corporations released last week by IP Worldwide, a publication affiliated with Legal Times, Howrey was the firm most frequently tapped for IP litigation. The firm’s client roster boasts household names like Texaco Inc., the Intel Corp., Johnson & Johnson, and PepsiCo. Inc. And yet Howrey often finds itself battling image problems as a Washington workplace. Over the past year, the firm has suffered high associate attrition and endured harsh criticism on the associate grapevine. In July, a former Howrey associate sent a scathing e-mail to all firm lawyers and summer associates, resulting in a flurry of emergency meetings. The firm’s most recent effort to improve its reputation with young lawyers — an intense summer associate program dubbed Howrey Boot Camp — may have made things worse. “I think they’ve branded themselves as a sweatshop, and the boot camp plays right into this image,” says one local consultant. It’s a perception problem that perplexes Ruyak and other firm leaders. “I think it’s a bad rap, but I’m not going to deny it’s there,” Briggs says. “It’s possible we’ve been paying too much attention to all these initiatives and not enough to the day-to-day concerns of associates.” Ruyak maintains that associate morale has improved since the merger and associate attrition has declined. He meets with each class of associates on a quarterly basis, and everyone knows where the firm is headed. After all, it’s spelled out in the plan. “I really believe everything we’ve done is the right thing for our people,” Ruyak says. “I try very hard to look at it from the standpoint of everyone at the firm.” “If we’re successful, everyone benefits,” he adds. “That’s what success is all about.”

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