Continuing a burst of new office openings by Am Law firms, Patton Boggs and Vedder Price are launching locations in the Middle East and the West Coast, respectively.
Chicago-based Vedder Price said Wednesday it is entering the California market with a new office in San Francisco, the firm’s fifth office overall. Vedder Price’s announcement came the same day Patton Boggs touted a new Dubai outpost that gives the Washington, D.C.–based firm’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) practice a total of four locations. Patton Boggs also has offices in Doha, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, and U.A.E., as well as an affiliate office in Riyadh.
The two firms’ moves into new markets follow recent office openings by several Am Law firms. K&L Gates launched this week in Delaware by recruiting four attorneys from Wilmington’s Potter Anderson & Corroon, as sibling publication The Legal Intelligencer reported Wednesday. Meanwhile, to the south, Fox Rothschild—which already has an office in West Palm Beach—announced Monday that it had acted on its long-discussed plans to expand its Florida presence, hiring former Fowler Rodriguez Valdes-Faul to open the firm’s new Miami-area office in Coral Gables in mid-March. (That move followed fellow Philadelphia-based firm Cozen O’Connor’s own Sunshine State expansion last month via the addition of a six-partner team from Edwards Wildman Palmer, according to TLI.
Leading Vedder Price’s San Francisco office are three new shareholders: former Bingham & McCutchen finance and transactions partner Bradley Crawford; Brendan Dolan, who joins from Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman’s labor and employment group; and former Drinker Biddle & Reath labor and employment partner Heather Sager. (A Vedder Price spokesman says the firm enlisted recruiting firm Watanabe Nason for the hiring process.)
Vedder Price president Michael Nemeroff tells The Am Law Daily his firm has been weighing a move to California for almost four years and that the state was one of two places considered for the firm’s last office opening, in 2011. (London was ultimately chosen instead.). Once attention turned to The Golden State, Nemeroff says, the decision to launch in San Francisco "was mostly due to the fact that’s where we found the people that we thought were the best fit for us." Specifically, he says, the new arrivals’ expertise will mesh well with two of Vedder Price’s major practices—corporate and labor—while expanding the firm’s reach: "It’s a good combination, because we can extend where we service a bunch of clients and also offer those same services to [the incoming shareholder's] clients in areas where we’re very well-known and very proficient to begin with."
Vedder Price ranked number 166 on The American Lawyer‘s 2012 Am Law 200 rankings based on its financial performance in 2011, the most recent year for which complete data is available. According to The American Lawyer‘s preliminary reporting on law firms’ 2012 finances, the firm’s gross revenue rose 9.9 percent last year, to $199 million, its profits per partner jumped 13.8 percent, to $825,000, and its revenue per lawyer rose 6.7 percent, to $800,000.
The San Francisco outpost is likely to hire additional lateral shareholders and associates in the coming weeks, according to Nemeroff, who adds that attorneys from other Vedder Price offices could also be transferred to the new office. And while the firm has no imminent plans to open other offices, Nemeroff says he can imagine Vedder Price expanding into Southern California and overseas in the future.
For Patton Boggs, the new Dubai office—the firm’s 10th location overall—is being opened by three lawyers from Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton. Partner Thomas Wilson is joining as the head of Patton Boggs’s construction practice in the region. Making the move with Wilson are former Kilpatrick associates Scott Hutton and Jonathan Taunton, with Hutton joining as of counsel and Taunton arriving as an associate. Patton Boggs is also adding Angie Hegazi, the former head of Kilpatrick’s business development and marketing in the region, to serve as its regional director of business development and marketing.
The firm said in a statement that the Dubai office will serve clients in the construction and infrastructure sector in Dubai, while expanding Patton Boggs’s offerings across the Middle East. The group joining from Kilpatrick will focus its efforts in such areas as public and private capital improvement projects, dispute resolution, transactions, compliance, and project risk management, according to the firm.
Patton Boggs managing partner Edward Newberry calls Dubai "the remaining large market for legal services in the Middle East"—a region the firm first entered by opening an office in Qatar a decade ago. Newberry says Patton Boggs has done client work in Dubai "for many years," so the firm had a strong understanding of the market and the attorneys practicing there. That, he says, led to the decision to launch a formal office in the city with the Kilpatrick laterals.
"[Knowledge of the market] allowed us to acquire a top-tier team in the area of infrastructure, which is one of the biggest areas for legal services in the region," Newberry says. "And Tom and his team personally fit very well with the people we have in various offices in Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Riyadh."
Newberry says Patton Boggs has no immediate plans for further expansion in the Middle East, but that the firm is exploring other options overseas, including in China and Australia.
According to The American Lawyer’s early reporting, 2012 was a challenging year for Patton Boggs. The firm’s gross revenue dipped 6.3 percent, to $318 million, its profits per partner dropped 14.9 percent, to $736,000, and its revenue per lawyer fell 5.1 percent, to $655,000.
Sibling publication The National Law Journal reported last month that Patton Boggs had laid off 30 lawyers and 35 other employees in a round of cost-cutting worth an estimated $14.7 million in savings. In another recent development, the firm named former Dewey & LeBoeuf litigation partner John Nonna managing partner of the New York office at the end of March.