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After World War I, technological advances and pent-up demand put appliances in homes across the United States. The interstate highway system was a national defense plan instituted after World War II. No one knows if the war on terrorism will produce a similar economic event. But if it does, some firms are already positioned to get a piece. The aftershocks of Sept. 11 cut a wide swath: Labor lawyers dealt with anthrax in the workplace, insurance lawyers raced to file claims, lobbyists fought a pitched battle over the federalization of airport security. Once those initial skirmishes were over, firms started planning for the long war ahead. The most forceful assault may have been made by the Washington, D.C., office of Houston’s Bracewell & Patterson, which established its “Counter-Terrorism, Public and Corporate Security” group in October. D.C.’s newest “it” boy is a member — former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, chair of the Republican National Committee and best buddy of George W. Bush. One of the group’s first projects was a study of the security of the nation’s oil supply. (Not surprisingly, it advocated federal subsidies to the oil industry.) Racicot showed what “access” means by personally giving a copy to Tom Ridge, the head of the Office of Homeland Security. To publicize the practice, Bracewell is conducting seminars around the country, encouraging each client to “inventory” its assets to determine if it’s terrorism-ready. If not, Bracewell is ready to help, with everything from lobbying to rewriting force majeure clauses. The marketing appears to be paying off: Ed Bethune, the head of the group, says that the firm will “ink several deals” in the next few months, which he hopes will offset the loss of one of its biggest clients — Enron Corp. Joining Bracewell on the seminar circuit is San Francisco’s McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enerson, which inaugurated its “Privacy & Security” group in October. The “privacy” side of the practice had been in the works since May, when Michael Arruda joined the firm from the San Francisco office of Baker & McKenzie. “Security” was added after Sept. 11 to deal with the new federal powers to obtain electronic information. Atlanta’s Kilpatrick Stockton formed an “Anti-Terrorism Task Force” in October, mostly to help clients deal with the requirements of the Patriot Act. Stanley Gorinson of the firm’s D.C. office says that the firm is not only approaching current clients, but seeking new ones in the financial, telecommunications and chemical industries. He reports “quite a bit of interest.” Marketing has its place, but it’s no substitute for good timing. Last summer San Francisco’s Morrison & Foerster began courting three government contracts lawyers from Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe for its D.C. office. By the time they formed MoFo’s new government contracts group in November, the boom in anti-terrorism spending (and the downturn in the private sector) had brought a new glow to that once-staid practice. The new practice groups show promise, but Washington’s conventional forces — lobbyists — are leading the post-Sept. 11 assault, fighting the good fight for the myriad industries that now portray themselves as vital to national security. Of course, no one can appear overeager. Philadelphia’s Blank Rome Comisky & McCauley is as well positioned as any firm — managing partner David Girard-diCarlo is a longtime friend and adviser to Ridge, and former members of the firm have left to join the staff. But when asked whether the firm’s connections have attracted new clients, Girard-diCarlo gets a bit defensive: “My first duty is to America. I won’t sell access,” he declares, asserting that he’s turned down clients that he doesn’t think are “worth the time of the Homeland Security office.” Then there’s the more pragmatic rationale for caution, offered by lobbyist Karen Hastie Williams, of D.C.’s Crowell & Moring: Taking on too many clients with tenuous claims of national security can damage a lobbyist’s credibility on future issues.

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