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Piper Rudnick has acquired Washington, D.C.’s Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand, one of the most high-powered and high-profile lobbying shops in the nation’s capital. The two law firms are set to announce their merger today, following votes concluded at both firms late last week. Piper Rudnick, the product of a 1999 merger between Baltimore’s Piper & Marbury and Chicago’s Rudnick & Wolfe, has 825 lawyers in 10 domestic offices, including 105 in New York, while Verner Liipfert currently counts about 80 lawyers. The combined firm will operate under the Piper Rudnick name, which was adopted in April. The firm had previously been known as Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe. Lee Miller, co-chair of Piper Rudnick, said the combination with Verner Liipfert was in line with a strategy that began with the 1999 merger. “That merger itself wasn’t the endgame,” said Miller. “This is a continuation of our goal of becoming a national and then international firm.” Miller said he expected the addition of Verner Liipfert’s partners and practices to significantly raise the profile of Piper Rudnick among both clients and lateral partners, and not just in Washington. Verner Liipfert Chairman George Mitchell, the former U.S. Senate majority leader, will be dividing his time between New York, where he lives with his family, and Washington. Mitchell said his firm had begun merger talks with Piper Rudnick several months ago, along with a number of other firms. All of Verner Liipfert’s suitors, he said, were large firms looking to attract corporate clients through legislative and regulatory practices. Of these, Piper Rudnick proved the most attractive. “We decided it was by far the best fit for us,” said Mitchell. “It was a more complementary result than would have existed with other firms.” Verner Liipfert built a reputation over the last decade based in large part on its steady accumulation of well-known political figures, particularly from the Democratic Party. Along with Mitchell, former Michigan Gov. James J. Blanchard is a partner at the firm. Former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and former Texas Gov. Ann Richards also have been partners at Verner Liipfert. Star wattage is not limited to the Democratic side. Robert J. Dole, the former Senate majority leader and Republican presidential candidate, is a special counsel at the firm. However, despite its high-powered roster, Verner Liipfert has seen difficult times of late. During the 1990s, the firm had expanded into numerous new practice areas and opened satellite offices in Texas and Florida, many of which either failed to take root or fell victim to partner defections. The firm has spent the last two years refocusing on its core Washington-based legislative practice, resulting in closed branch offices and a number of layoffs. Apart from its lobbying practice, Verner Liipfert maintains international trade and labor practices. The lawyers at Verner Liipfert are not the only big Washington names Piper Rudnick has brought on board lately. On Sept. 3, the firm announced a strategic alliance with the Cohen Group, the international and economic affairs consulting group led by William S. Cohen, the former senator and secretary of Defense.

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