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Senator-elect George Allen was just stopping by his Richmond, Va., law office last Wednesday afternoon, but when the elevator door opened on the eighth-floor conference room at McGuireWoods, he was greeted by thunderous applause from about 200 people. Allen has been with the firm for less than three years. Yet “there is a genuine affection for him, not only at the partner and associate level, but also with the staff. He was really family,” says partner Richard Cullen. When word got around that Allen would be coming in to say hello to whoever was around after his Nov. 8 post-victory press conference, a reception was quickly organized. And it wasn’t just Republicans who came out. A substantial number of McGuireWoods lawyers and consultants are staunch Democrats and were avid supporters of Allen’s opponent, Sen. Charles Robb. But they, too, were present at the impromptu party. McGuireWoods brought Allen into its partnership in January 1998, when he left the governor’s mansion. As a private lawyer, his earnings were more than $600,000 annually, according to financial disclosure forms he filed during his campaign; as a U.S. senator, he will draw a $133,600 salary. McGuireWoods has often provided a soft landing for Virginia politicos. The firm has been home to three governors, two state attorneys general, several congressional representatives, and countless political appointees, either before or after their public service. Allen is the first senator to emerge from its halls. In addition to accepting officials into the fold, McGuireWoods encourages new and veteran attorneys to spend time in the public sector. “When we hire young attorneys, we’re not bashful about telling them that they’ll work hard, but there are also opportunities for them to serve if they’re called,” says Cullen, who was U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia from 1991 to 1993 and also served for about six months as state attorney general in 1996. “We have a very long tradition of public service at the firm,” says William Allcott, a senior vice president at McGuireWoods Consulting and a former communications director for outgoing Senator Robb. That tradition stretches all the way back to President James Monroe’s law clerk, Egbert Watson, who in 1834 opened a Charlottesville, Va., law office that would morph into McGuireWoods. And founding partner John Battle Sr. was governor of Virginia from 1950 to 1954. NEW LOBBY CLIENTS? Allen’s election may not provide an immediate boost to the bottom line of McGuireWoods Consulting, an offshoot of the law firm, because freshman senators have limited power on the Hill. But depending on what committee seats Allen secures, clients may look to McGuireWoods over time as a strong GOP link. Firmwide managing partner William Strickland downplays any effect that Allen’s Senate seat might have on attracting new lobby clients. “I think additional clients will be attracted to the firm, not so much for [the Allen connection], but because we’ve got a growing practice in Washington,” Strickland says. Launched two years ago, the consulting company has grown from around a dozen people two years ago to about 35 today, according to Frank Atkinson, chairman of McGuireWoods Consulting. Long-standing law clients, which also work with the consultants, include the CSX Corp., Trigon Healthcare Inc., and the GTE Corp. McGuireWoods has about 25 attorneys and six consultant/lobbyists in its Washington, D.C. office, where the consulting group is headed up by former Virginia Rep. L.F. Payne, a Democrat. It also has 72 attorneys and two consultants in McLean, Va. Firmwide, McGuireWoods has about 500 attorneys. “He’s been a very good partner at the law firm, and I have enjoyed working with him there,” says Payne. “And now I look forward to working with him as a United States senator,” he adds. Allen could not be reached for comment. Allen’s win may tempt some key McGuireWoods players to join his staff on Capitol Hill. Six members of the consulting firm worked with Allen in his public role. Perhaps most notable is Atkinson, who served in then-Governor Allen’s cabinet as counselor and director of policy. At this point, though, none of the former staffers has announced an intention to leave for the Hill. Atkinson says that at the beginning of the campaign, “I told [Allen] that while I was very privileged to participate in his term as governor and I wanted to be very active in helping with his [senatorial] campaign, I had no intention of going to Washington.” Allen, whose primary role at the firm was rainmaker, was a partner in the business expansion group at McGuireWoods, advising companies that wanted to open their doors in Virginia on strategy and state policies. Most attorneys at the firm don’t make quite as much as the former governor. According to the most recent survey by The American Lawyer magazine, the average profits-per-partner there is $295,000. Allen remained a partner at the firm until the election. Meanwhile, it might not be long before another McGuireWoods partner trades his partner draw for public service, this time on the Democratic ticket. James Dyke Jr., a partner in the McLean office, has said recently that he is considering a run for lieutenant governor in the 2001 race. Dyke served in former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder’s cabinet as secretary of education, and he was a domestic policy adviser to then-Vice President Walter Mondale.

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