The Washington office of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is perched on Pennsylvania Avenue, about halfway between Congress and the White House. It holds a commanding view of the National Archives, and during the summer, Navy bands in starched white uniforms often play music at the nearby Navy War Memorial, making conference calls next to impossible. All in all, it’s the kind of power address you’d expect from the D.C. stronghold of the one of the world’s largest and most profitable law firms.

But the panoramic view is about the only commanding aspect of Freshfields’ Washington presence. Compared with some of the home-grown and out-of-town firms nearby, the firm’s operation, which opened in 1998, is positively tiny — about 20 lawyers largely focused on antitrust, with a little tax work thrown in for good measure. Hardly what you’d expect from a 2,400-lawyer global powerhouse in a city that serves as the de facto epicenter of the legal universe. Moreover, Freshfields is one of only two big U.K. firms to have ventured south from the financial stronghold of New York.

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