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When Blank Rome chairman David Girard-diCarlo announced late last year that he would be spending most of his days in Washington, D.C., he said one of the chief motives was to expand the Philadelphia-based firm’s presence in the nation’s capital. And the firm has done just that, announcing Monday that it has acquired 42-attorney Washington, D.C.-based Dyer Ellis & Joseph. The merger, which became effective Jan. 1, gives Blank Rome 68 lawyers in Washington, D.C., and skill and depth in Dyer Ellis’ two main practice focuses — maritime finance and white-collar defense litigation. Blank Rome managing partner Fred Blume said talks began roughly six months ago as the firm made its intentions to expand in Washington known to local consultants and recruiters. One of those recruiters steered Blank Rome toward Dyer Ellis, which was exploring the possibility of merging into a larger firm. “We didn’t get serious with them until they became convinced that we had a long-term commitment to Washington, D.C.,” Blume said. “We had to convince them that we were in Washington for the long term and that we are not here because the Republicans are in power. We also had to convince them that David was committed to stay in Washington and that we wouldn’t be pulling up stakes. “And from our perspective, we like the fact that we get a firm with similar practice areas that have a different emphasis than us. Because of this, we are actually talking about making white-collar defense its own practice area within the firm. We get a larger presence in Washington, and they get additional practice areas like IP, labor and tax.” Girard-diCarlo announced in October that he would be spending roughly 80 percent of his time in Washington to capitalize on his connections there. Before the Dyer Ellis union, Blank Rome’s Washington office had 26 lawyers focusing mainly on intellectual property, government relations and international trade matters. IP is by far the largest D.C. practice area for Blank Rome, as the firm acquired 13-attorney IP boutique Wigman Cohen Leitner & Myers in 1998 and now has seven partners and eight associates, including firmwide IP chairman Victor Wigman. Girard-diCarlo said he would like to see the office add more corporate, litigation, transportation and energy capabilities. When interviewed a few months ago, Girard-diCarlo said every major Washington firm has started in one of two ways: Someone leaves a significant government position and brings aboard clients, or someone moves there while friends are in power. Girard-diCarlo fits the latter definition, with friends that include President Bush — who recently appointed him to the Kennedy Center board of directors — and homeland security adviser and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. Girard-diCarlo has been a major fund-raiser for both men as well as several other key Republicans, and he said Bush’s election in 2000 only hastened what was already a move in the works. Dyer Ellis, which was formed in 1986, has a heavy focus on maritime finance work as name partners Thomas Dyer and James Ellis both work in that area. The firm’s white-collar defense work is led by Jane Barrett, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in Maryland, and Billy Martin, who most notably represented the family of Monica Lewinsky after her notorious fling with President Clinton. Patrick Cavanaugh, Dyer Ellis’ managing partner, said that for the better part of the past five years the firm has explored the possibility of shrinking into a boutique firm and merging with firms that are both the same size and larger. In the past year, Cavanaugh said the firm has been flooded with inquiries but settled on Blank Rome due to its cultural and economic fit as well as its commitment to growing its Washington presence. Girard-diCarlo’s move to Washington also enhanced Blank Rome’s attractiveness. “What stood out with Blank Rome was its commitment to Washington,” Cavanaugh said. “With our interests in government relations and government contracts, we just think that having those good relationships with the White House and Department of Homeland Security makes good business sense.” Cavanaugh acknowledged that the firm was having some trouble competing with larger firms in major litigation and corporate matters but that Dyer Ellis never struggled when it came to its bread-and-butter maritime finance work. In all, 15 Dyer Ellis attorneys will join Blank Rome as equity partners and another 11 will enter the firm with non-equity status. In addition to founding partners Dyer, Ellis and Michael Joseph (who handle both litigation and corporate matters), the other equity partners will be government contracts lawyer Brian Bannon; environmental lawyers Cavanaugh, Jeanne Grasso and Jonathan Waldron; corporate lawyers Brett Esber, John Kearney, Edward Lublin and Anthony Salgado; white-collar litigators Barrett and Martin; securities litigator Joseph Click; and government relations lawyer Duncan Smith III. Cavanaugh will serve as co-administrative partner with Mark Blondman, who has been the head of Blank Rome’s Washington office. Dyer will take a spot on the firm’s executive committee. Blume said the financials of the two firms match up nicely as Blank Rome’s profits per equity partner were listed at $440,000 for 2001 (according to the most recent edition of The American Lawyer‘s Am Law 200), while he said Dyer Ellis’ partner profit numbers were a shade under $400,000. Blume said that Dyer Ellis has a large percentage of non-equity partners than Blank Rome, which only created that position a little more than a year ago. Washington D.C.-based, legal recruiter Charles Garrison said that Dyer Ellis probably felt that it had reached its limits in its present form and needed the backing of a large firm. “And Blank Rome gets a real D.C. presence,” Garrison said. “With all of the practice areas, they get lawyers with Washington know-how and connections.” With Blank Rome’s lease in the Farragut Building, located at 900 17th St., N.W., expiring this summer, the firm plans on moving in to the Dyer Ellis space in the Watergate building. Dyer Ellis currently occupies 37,252 square feet on the entire 11th floor and part of the 10th floor. The firm will more than double the size of that space, negotiating to lease an additional 41,387 square feet that encompasses all of the 12th floor, the remainder of the 10th floor and part of the first floor. That leaves plenty of space for additional expansion. Cavanaugh estimated that if the firm accepts options for additional space (which would give them four full floors), Blank Rome could accommodate between 125 to 150 lawyers in the Watergate site. “We do not anticipate this being the last acquisition in Washington,” Blume said. “We want to add a presence in energy and transportation to that office.” Dyer Ellis began in the mid-1980s as a six-lawyer firm focused on transactional, legislative and regulatory matters affecting the marine transportation and shipbuilding industries. As the firm has grown, it expanded its practice range to include legislative affairs, regulatory and commercial litigation, government contracts, securities, environmental law and white-collar defense. Blank Rome is no stranger to significant mergers. In January 2000, the firm merged with 80-attorney Tenzer Greenblatt. Blume said that merger has worked and he believes the Dyer Ellis union can strengthen the firm further with cross-selling of practice groups and proper integration. Cavanaugh said that before agreeing to merge, he and some of his Dyer Ellis colleagues met with Tenzer Greenblatt attorneys to assess their views of life at Blank Rome.

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