Washington Wrap is a weekly look at the biggest legal industry news and Big Law moves shaping the legal business in Washington, D.C. Send tips and lateral moves to Ryan Lovelace at email@example.com.
The merger mood gripping the legal market in 2018 is poised to spill into the new year in the nation’s capital, too, with Dykema Gossett’s acquisition of Loss, Judge & Ward taking effect Jan. 1, 2019.
Dykema’s “strategic combination” with Loss Judge is in some ways emblematic of the choices firms are making in D.C. amid the consolidation driven by competitive pressures and expiring leases. Before absorbing Loss Judge, Dykema, a nearly 400-lawyer firm ranked 137 in the 2018 Am Law 200, first swallowed a Minnesotan IP trio, Moore & Hansen. As Dykema looks to bolster its practice offerings, it appears to have prized geographic expansion beyond its Midwestern roots to remain competitive.
“From our point of view, this was really an excellent opportunity for us to add a very high-quality group of lawyers,” said Peter Kellett, chairman and CEO of Dykema. Loss Judge’s commercial insurance litigation practice covers matters of general liability, professional liability and bad faith. The firm is also general counsel to the Commission on Presidential Debates, and managing partner Lewis Loss argued successfully for the commission before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last year.
The addition of Loss Judge’s team represents less than 5 percent of Dykema’s total head count, but the two sides began the combination process approximately a year ago. Kellett told folks in the firm’s leadership and atop relevant practice groups about the decision first, and the Dykema team in D.C. soon thereafter.
The Loss Judge team had never gone through the process of a merger, and Loss kept his partners, lawyers and staff informed throughout the firm’s search for a merger partner.
“We had been exploring this for about a year and the process with Dykema began about a full year ago,” Loss said. As is the cause of so many combinations, Loss said, “We have a lease coming up in a number of months.”
Loss said the firm had lots of contacts who had gone through similar transactions, and he called and went to lunch with others who had been in his shoes. He researched questions to ask prospective merger partners online and brought in consultants for advice on how the resulting financial issues should be handled.
What separated Dykema in Loss’ mind was the “human touch.” Other potential merger partners held video teleconferences and requested that Loss Judge utilize an online portal to submit the firm’s finances for how firm’s consider laterals. Kellett and other firm leaders flew into Washington to meet early on in the process, which Loss said was “flattering” and “meant the world to us.” Loss Judge’s full team has met with Dykema’s folks, including staff.
Dykema’s move could prove to be the last-announced merger of 2018 in Washington, but it may be a harbinger of things to come in 2019.
Law Firm Moves, News and Notes
Hogan Lovells has added Tiffany Posil as counsel from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Posil had worked at the SEC since 2011 and was special counsel in the office of mergers and acquisitions for the last four years. She previously was an associate at Richards, Layton & Finger, which dubs itself the largest law firm in Delaware.
Posil joins the M&A and securities practices at Hogan Lovells. She is admitted to practice law in Delaware, not D.C.
Mitchell Morris has moved from McGuireWoods to Butler Snow in Richmond, Virginia. Morris was partner at McGuireWoods with experience as a trial lawyer and litigator in state or federal courts in California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
At Butler Snow, Morris is member in the litigation department and his practice falls within the products liability, toxic tort and environmental groups. He counsels clients on matters involving wrongful death, traumatic injury, intentional tort, environmental and complex commercial issues.
Michael Dobson has left the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to join Morrison & Foerster’s Washington, D.C., office as of counsel. Dobson follows in the footsteps of John Smith, the former OFAC director who joined Morrison & Foerster this summer. Dobson was senior sanctions policy adviser at OFAC and worked closely with Smith.
The duo join an ever-expanding list of ex-government officials decamping the Trump administration for the private sector. Since the outset of 2017, Morrison & Foerster added John Carlin, former assistant attorney general for national security; Robert Litt, former general counsel for the director of national intelligence; and Lisa Phelan, who boasted more than 25 years in the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. Joseph Benkert, who represented the Department of Defense on Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States matters from 2003 to 2009, also joined Morrison & Foerster in October.
Jeffrey Verdon, an estate planning and asset protection lawyer for the wealthy, has formed an alliance as of counsel at Lanny Davis’ D.C. boutique firm, Davis, Goldberg & Galper.
Eleanor McManus, a former CNN producer who is one of four partners at the firm, said Verdon is the only “of counsel” at Davis, Goldberg & Galper. The number of lawyers who work at Davis Goldberg remains unclear, but the partner quartet also oversees a crisis communication and public relations shop named Trident DMG.
Oblon, McClelland, Maier & Neustadt has promoted three lawyers to partner in its suburban D.C. office in Alexandria, Virginia: Aldo Martinez, John Presper and Ryan Smith. The trio’s partnership takes effect Jan. 1 and they work in the firm’s electrical patent prosecution group; litigation and ITC litigation practice group; and mechanical patent prosecution practice group, respectively.
Wilkinson Barker Knauer added Kathleen Benway as partner in Washington, D.C., from the Federal Trade Commission, where she most recently was chief of staff for the bureau of consumer protection. At Wilkinson Barker, her practice focuses on privacy, data protection and cybersecurity; FTC and consumer protection; and enforcement.