The presence of British “Magic Circle” firms in Washington has grown now that London-based Linklaters has announced the opening of a D.C. office. This marks the second time the firm has expanded into the Washington market.
Linklaters’ U.S. co-managing partner Jeff Norton said in an interview that the Washington office was a natural extension of the firm’s New York office and is aligned with the firm’s vision of forming “one office, one market.”
“Given the increase in the regulatory environment, we felt it was important to have people on the ground in D.C.,” Norton said. The new office will focus on government, litigation, regulatory, tax and antitrust matters, among others.
The firm previously operated a Washington office from 1992 to 2002. According to a media report at the time, a firm spokeswoman said the branch was closed because, “There was no economic justification to keep the office open.”
Norton said that the firm re-tooled its U.S. strategy about seven or eight years ago with the goal that New York and Washington offices would operate as a single unit rather than as separate outposts. “We’ve always wanted to be in D.C., but we weren’t ready,” he said.
Currently the D.C. office has six attorneys, but Norton said the firm is looking to grow based on the needs of its clients. Among the residents in the new office are competition partner Jeffrey Schmidt and tax partner Joseph Pari. Norton and U.S. co-managing partner Conrado Tenaglia serve as leaders of both offices. The new digs are located at 601 13th Street, in the heart of the Metro Center neighborhood.
Linklaters is the fourth firm among the U.K.’s top five firms, often referred to as the Magic Circle, to plant its flag in the nation’s capital. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy opened D.C. offices in 1998, 2000 and 2011, respectively. Slaughter and May is the only Magic Circle firm without a Washington presence.
“It really is a natural progression,” Norton said. “The U.S. practice is at a point where we need a D.C. office.”