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There’s an old riddle that you might remember from elementary school: What’s the best day to hold a parade? The answer: March 4th (march forth). Turn back the clock, then, to March 4, 1805, the day of Thomas Jefferson’s second inauguration. (Until passage of the 20th Amendment in 1933, Inauguration Day fell on March 4, the day of the year that, quadrennially, least frequently fell on Sunday.) Like the ceremony four years earlier — Jefferson’s first inauguration and the first such ceremony to be held in the nation’s capital — Jefferson had been administered the oath of office in the Capitol Building at noon by his cousin, Chief Justice John Marshall; had delivered his Inaugural address; and was ready to return to his home. But four years earlier, our third president had walked without fanfare to his boarding house at ceremony’s end. By 1805, however, Jefferson had been installed in the newly built executive mansion. For his return to the presidential residence, later called the White House, Jefferson saddled up and rode on horseback down Pennsylvania Avenue. Following in his wake was a throng of well-wishers and street musicians, largely composed of mechanics from the nearby Navy Yard. One close observer of inaugurals, James Winchester, wrote in 1965 that our inaugural celebration is largely “a matter of custom, not law.” The spontaneous procession that trailed Jefferson’s carriage thus proved to be the birth of one of our most endearing inaugural traditions: the inaugural parade. Eventually, the parade became a planned event and with each passing year continued to grow more elaborate. By 1889, for example, the newly installed President Benjamin Harrison mounted a white steed and advanced down Pennsylvania Avenue at the head of a convoy of log cabins on wheels and a brigade of coonskin-capped marchers sponsored by nationwide Tippecanoe Clubs. Motor vehicles became a feature of the parade in 1921, when Warren G. Harding and his predecessor in the White House, Woodrow Wilson, rode in an automobile to and from Harding’s inauguration, an inaugural first. By that time, it had become customary for the outgoing president to call on the new president at the start of the day and for the two to ride together to and from the Capitol Hill ceremony. To this day, protocol calls for the outgoing president to sit to the right of the new president on the way to the ceremony and to the left on the return trip after the new president has been installed. Not every president has felt comfortable with the parade. It was reported that frugal Calvin Coolidge, for instance, was annoyed at the $40,000 price tag for the 1925 parade in honor of his second inaugural. One wonders what lawyer Coolidge would make of a tradition that has developed among a number of local law firms fortunate or foresighted enough to have acquired offices on Pennsylvania Avenue overlooking the inaugural parade route. For these firms, Inauguration Day offers an opportunity to reward staff and clients with a party they will not soon forget. And by expanding the guest list to include contacts as well as clients, it’s even possible for a firm to use the social event as a way to spread good will and perhaps even trawl for future clients. An unscientific survey of law firms with Pennsylvania Avenue addresses and enviable views of the parade route indicate that these parties are now an established part of the law firm social whirl, and that George W. Bush’s Jan. 20 inauguration is going to be a cause for celebration in many of the office buildings up and down the avenue. “It’s a great chance to spend time with clients in a social setting during a great historic event,” explains Sutherland Asbill & Brennan managing partner James Henderson III, echoing a sentiment voiced by many law firm inauguration party planners. According to Kim Perret, Sutherland Asbill’s marketing director, the firm is expecting from 600 to 800 clients and friends to drop by its 13th Street offices on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue during the course of their open house. This, Sutherland Asbill’s third inauguration party, promises to be a family-friendly event, with day care and a special kiddy menu provided. The firm’s offices will be festooned with red, white, and blue bunting, and fresh bloom bouquets. Wide-screen televisions will be strategically placed around the office — a convention being employed at many of the firm parties. And, of course, the parade will be visible from many of Sutherland Asbill’s windows. A wide range of food will be served, and to honor the new president, a special Texas menu will be offered in the firm’s main conference room. Speaking of Texas, at least two firms with roots in the Lone Star State are making a festival of the inaugural weekend. Baker Botts, the Houston-based firm founded by the great-grandfather of GOP stalwart and former Secretary of State James Baker III, is hosting two major events. On Friday night, Jan. 19, the firm is commandeering the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center and throwing a black-tie gala in honor of former President George Bush and his wife, Barbara. According to Bruce Kiely, one of the partners in charge of the firm’s D.C. office, about 2,000 guests are expected, including clients, legislators, Cabinet nominees, judges, and justices. Twelve years ago, the firm paid homage to George W. Bush on the eve of his father’s inauguration. When asked if the president-elect will attend the party celebrating his parents, Kiely says, “We’re hopeful that he’ll be able to find time in his busy schedule to stop by.” On the day of the inaugural, Baker Botts is also hosting an open house at their Pennsylvania Avenue office. A considerably less formal affair than the previous evening’s gala, Baker Botts will offer guests food and drinks and a view of the parade from windows and a balcony as well as from several big-screen TVs. Says Kiely: “Baker Botts is excited about the events, and we’re pleased that so many clients and friends of the firm will be able to attend.” The D.C. office of Houston-based Vinson & Elkins is also sponsoring dual events, to which more than 1,400 guests were invited, according to Client Services Coordinator Anne Mroczynski. The firm is hosting a dinner reception Friday night at the Sulgrave Club and an open house at its offices on Pennsylvania Avenue near 15th Street on Inauguration Day. The best view of the parade will be from the firm’s eighth-floor terrace. You don’t have to be from Texas, however, to get into the inaugural spirit. The Inauguration Day party at Hale and Dorr promises to be memorable, its theme being “The Flavors, Colors, and Menus From the Four Corners of America.” According to Donna Farber, the firm’s business development manager, four conference rooms at the firm are each going to be decorated and offer food in the styles of four regions of the country: New England cuisine will feature clam chowder, baked crab souffl�, and grilled harvest vegetables. The offerings from the American South include jambalya, chicken muffulettas, and catfish fritters. Among the proffered Desert Southwest treats are mini-quesadillas, mesa greens with prickly-pear cactus vinaigrette, and black bean dip and Southwestern corn salsa served with red-beet and blue and yellow corn tortilla chips. Bounty from the Pacific Northwest spotlights bow-tie pasta with shaved saut�ed salmon, dim sum steamers, and sushi. Two dessert rooms will also be set up. “An American Sampler” features New York cheesecake, Key West lime mousse, Carolina pecan bars, and California strawberries, among other delicacies. No explanations are necessary for the “Death by Chocolate Room.” Views of the parade can be had from numerous windows and a well-placed terrace in the firm’s Willard Office Building digs. Three or four large TVs will also be appropriately placed. Further entertainment will be provided by a jazz band and a juggler on stilts. Five hundred lawyers, clients, and contacts are expected to filter in and out throughout the day. Children under 15 have not been invited. A more casual event is planned a block or two west at the offices of Covington & Burling. According to John Neidecker, chief marketing officer, about 350 people are expected to stop in at the firm’s open house, its first on Inauguration Day. At least half of the crowd will be clients and their families, Neidecker estimates. Just so there would be no mistakes that this affair is primarily a social event, guests to the party received their invitations in a miniature plastic champagne bottle. “We want to get them here to have some food, some drink, and to stay warm,” says Neidecker. Among other firms that will be throwing Inauguration Day parties: � Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, which expects several hundred firm members and clients and their families to stop by its Pennsylvania Avenue offices near 7th Street “for the view, food, and big-screen TVs,” according to partner Bruce Sokler. � Bradley Arant Rose & White, the D.C. outpost of the Alabama-based firm, which, according to partner and former Rep. Ben Erdreich, D-Ala., expects to welcome to its offices on Pennsylvania Avenue, near 8th Street, more than 300 guests, including “friends off the Hill” and lawyers and their guests from the firm’s home-state offices. “We’ll be offering a lot of food and warm drink,” says Erdreich. � Atlanta-based Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy will open its doors to from 900 to 1,100 guests, including clients and contacts, according to Martin Gold, the marketing director of the firm’s D.C. office. “Our gathering is very much a social situation to maintain relationships. It’s a celebration.”

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