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The list of euphemisms seems endless: One-stop shopping. Umbrella services. Synergy. Under one roof. What law firms are talking about is keeping clients happy — and simply keeping clients. For many, that increasingly means taking on lobbying. From Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn to a raft of out-of-town law firms with big D.C. offices, building or maintaining a viable lobbying practice is increasingly important. It certainly isn’t news that law firms provide lobbying and government relations advice. Indeed, some of the biggest names in lobbying tout themselves as full-service (another euphemism) law and lobbying outfits: Patton Boggs; Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand; and Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, to name the three biggest. But over the last year, many other law firms have been aggressively bolstering their lobbying ranks by bringing on top Capitol Hill dwellers, teaming with established shops, or nabbing lobbyists from other firms. “Over the years, the more traditional courtroom lawyers have looked somewhat askance at their public policy brethren,” says J.C. Boggs III, half of the two-man lobby practice at the Washington, D.C. office of Philadelphia’s Blank Rome Comisky & McCauley. “But that has changed as we bring in new business.” About a year ago, Blank Rome hired Boggs, a Republican counsel to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee from 1991 to 1995, and recently announced that Mark Holman, chief of staff to Republican Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, will join him and David Norcross, who currently heads the firm’s lobbying venture. “Lobbying is really a growing field,” says Norcross, who along with Holman will be vetting job candidates in January after Holman settles in. “Government’s impact on business is growing, as government gets bigger and injects itself in more business decisions.” And law firms see no reason to let their clients slip out the door. “To some extent, as law firms move toward a professional services model, it makes sense that you’re going to have all your bases covered in Washington, and that includes lobbying,” says Charles Samuels, a legislative partner at Boston’s Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo. “I’m sure that firms that don’t have that feel at a competitive disadvantage.” That’s why New York’s Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, a corporate law behemoth never known for a legislative practice, brought in Ivan Schlager, a respected 10-year Hill veteran who served as Democratic chief counsel and staff director to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Schlager isn’t the only one at Skadden with government experience. The firm’s roster also includes Lynn Coleman, a former general counsel and deputy secretary of the Department of Energy, and Robert Lighthizer, former chief of staff to the Senate Finance Committee under Bob Dole’s chairmanship. But Schlager’s arrival this year gave the firm a formalized public policy group and more recent Hill contacts. “This was something where we saw an opportunity that we weren’t taking advantage of,” says the managing partner of Skadden’s D.C. outpost, Michael Rogan. “We saw work that was going to other people.” Skadden is best known for handling corporate deals, and those deals call not only for M&A lawyers, but also people who know their way around the Capitol. Skadden is representing U.S. Airways in its merger with United Airlines, as well as America Online Inc. in its acquisition of Time Warner Inc. Both deals have come under scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers. “We’re dealing with the intersection of policy and corporate work,” says Schlager, sitting at the desk in his office overlooking the Treasury Department. “The advantage of Skadden is that the lobbying shop is just one piece of the puzzle. We have such a depth of resources to draw from here.” Although not new to the arena, Tampa, Fla.-based Holland & Knight has recently stepped up its efforts in the lobbying world. “The firm views the likelihood of trying to compete with Skadden on acquisition work or Jones Day on corporate work as kind of not where we want to go head-to-head,” says Richard Gold, a Washington, D.C. partner who heads the firm’s federal affairs practice. “We see policy as one of the destinies of the firm because of the number of people who do public law. It leads to the natural conclusion that this should be one of our niches.” To more easily fill that niche, Holland & Knight in April forged a strategic alliance with lobby shop American Continental Group. Although not a bona fide merger, the two operations will share office space come 2001, when Holland & Knight moves into its new location at 2099 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. What American Continental brings to the table, says Gold, is greater reach in the 50 states as well as experience in appropriations and technology interests. Since the mid-1990s, Holland & Knight has itself aggressively sought lucrative appropriations work. Last year, it brought in about $1.5 million from 32 clients, while also picking up David Whitestone, who served as an aide to Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Related Agencies. Holland & Knight also nabbed Robert Bradner, whose government services career included seven years as chief of staff and counsel to Rep. John Porter, R-Ill., chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. As for future hires, Gold says the firm is “looking at several members of Congress and senior staff.” Boston’s Hale and Dorr is on the lookout too. But Jay Urwitz, a lawyer-lobbyist who heads his firm’s Washington, D.C.-based lobby group, says he isn’t looking for big names. “A lobbyist here would be expected to be a worker bee,” says Urwitz, a former aide to Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. Last year, Hale and Dorr, which wants to boost its lobbying efforts, brought in about $1 million in revenue and had about two dozen clients, Urwitz says. Part of the reason the firm wants to improve its Capitol Hill contacts is to complement its regulatory practice, Urwitz says. “There’s also a lot of interplay between the Hill and the agencies,” he says. “Nobody on the Hill will dictate a result to a regulatory agency, but they can ask the agency to take a look and see if they’re doing the right thing.” As Urwitz and others acknowledge, size clearly has its advantages. “Clients want their lobbyists to be able to handle whatever comes in the door,” says David Gogol of Sagamore Associates, the lobbying arm of Indiana’s Baker & Daniels, which has some 30 lobbyists. “You’re going to have a hard time with just one or two people. “Those regional powerhouses, their clients expect to have top-notch people,” Gogol adds. “You don’t get top-notch people if you just have one person in the office.” But big shops trying to be all things to all clients can certainly have a downside, especially in a business as driven by personal connections as lobbying. In a big shop, clients are more likely to have their matters handed off to an associate, whereas at smaller shops, the people that clients hire are more likely to be doing the work. But, says Daniel Crane of the two-partner lobby shop Campbell-Crane Associates, clients simply go where the talent is. “If we happen to close up our shop and join a big law firm, we’d still be the same people and provide the same service,” Crane says. Like several firms, Chicago’s McDermott, Will & Emery acknowledges the possible pitfalls of growing too big too quickly. “We don’t want to maintain a high profile,” says McDermott, Will’s Stanton Anderson, who heads up his firm’s legislative practice. “Part of that is bringing in ex-members, and we’ve looked at that and discarded it. We don’t think it’s effective.” Mintz Levin, like Hale and Dorr based in Boston, sees lobbying as a natural extension of serving as outside general counsel to a company, says Samuels, a Washington, D.C. partner in the three-person federal practice. “Lobbying is no less of a legal art than other more traditional legal services,” says Samuels. “The kind of lobbying that we do and that good law firms do is heavily substantive, based on our knowledge of the law and of the Congress.” And Samuels’ longtime client, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, says there’s an advantage to having one firm coordinate its government relations activities. “In many instances, the conversation will start out more about a regulatory issue, and this way we don’t have to worry about stopping the meeting or stopping the call to bring in a lobbyist,” says Joseph McGuire, the association’s president. “It’s sort of seamless. They’re able to give us the full perspective.” At least most of the time. Right now, the association, under Samuels’ direction, has tapped the tax specialists at Washington Council Ernst & Young as it pushes Congress to pass a tax credit for companies that manufacture “supereffective” clothes washers and refrigerators. Meanwhile, Mintz Levin has set up a wholly owned public affairs subsidiary, ML Strategies. Modeled after Baker & Daniels’ Sagamore Associates, ML Strategies wants to add four to six people to its five-person Washington, D.C. operation over the next year and plans to step up its wooing efforts during the next 60 days, says Stephen Tocco, the group’s president. ML Strategies doesn’t focus solely on lobbying. It also includes public relations and grassroots efforts. “To really be successful you need to have the PR, government affairs, and legal side to understand or resolve a business problem. We want to put all that under one umbrella,” says Tocco. Out-of-town shops aren’t the only ones trying to fit more under their umbrellas. Washington, D.C.’s Arent Fox isn’t at all bashful about aggressively pursuing clients in need of a lobbying team. In the past 18 months, Arent Fox’s lobby shop has doubled from 10 members to about 20. Following a sort of mini-Verner Liipfert model, the firm brought on former Arkansas Sen. Dale Bumpers, a Democrat who spoke on President Bill Clinton’s behalf during impeachment proceedings. “We would sure like to continue that growth,” says the firm’s Robert Waters. “And we think there is every reason to believe we will.” Arent Fox recently has registered to lobby on behalf of several new clients — some coming from the firm’s existing legal client base, which is strong on associations and health care. But some of that business, like the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, has originated with the lobbying department. With few exceptions, law firm lobbyists are expecting much bigger things to come in the next few years. While most of the budding practices say they don’t want to be Patton Boggs or Verner Liipfert, their pitch sounds an awful lot like that of their larger and more established brethren — that lawyers, at least sometimes, make for better lobbyists. Holland & Knight’s Gold says clients don’t care what your degree is; they just want someone to boost their bottom line. “Companies are not looking for lawyers or lobbyists or accountants,” he says. “They’re looking for business consultants. They’re looking for people who can make them more profitable.” Kate Ackley is a reporter for Influence. Her e-mail address is [email protected]

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