UPDATE: 11/6/13, 10:15 a.m. EST. Former Dow Lohnes tax litigation partner Judith Mather in Washington, D.C., has joined Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom as of counsel.
Left behind after Cooley announced last month it would pick up 54 lawyers from Dow Lohnes, a handful of attorneys from the former Am Law 200 firm have moved on to new opportunities in Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
The Am Law Daily first reported in late September on Dow Lohnes’ merger talks with potential suitors following the loss of more than half of its lawyers over the past few years to rival firms and in-house positions. While Cooley is now poised to pick up the bulk of Dow Lohnes following their proposed tie-up, set to go live on January 1, the latter firm’s Atlanta office will not be part of the deal.
Christopher Meazell, a former midwestern regional managing partner at Dow Lohnes who most recently worked out of the firm’s Atlanta office, has now joined Covington & Burling as special counsel in Washington, D.C. Reached late Monday by phone, Meazell says he specializes in IP and commercial litigation in the media and telecommunications realm, adding that he was drawn to Covington because of the firm’s expertise in the field.
Joining Cooley was never really an option for Meazell, who notes he had a somewhat unique relationship with Dow Lohnes, which he joined in 2001 and was of counsel with at the time of his departure last week. Before law school, Meazell was an “art rock musician” who toured throughout Europe, and from 2007 to 2012 he was the managing partner of Dow Lohnes’s now shuttered outpost in Norman, Okla., during which time he served as an adjunct law professor at the University of Oklahoma.
Meazell is now based in Winston-Salem, N.C., where he serves as director of the master of studies in law program at the Wake Forest University School of Law in addition to his role as special counsel at Covington. Meazell says the program is designed for nonlawyers going into the business or nonprofit world who “want to learn a little more” about how the law works. He also teaches classes on contracts and law firm economics.
Asked about the demise of Dow Lohnes, where he spent the better part of a decade, Meazell says he’s sad to see the firm that’s been home to many friends and colleagues disappear into Cooley.
Among the other lawyers who won’t be making the move to Cooley are former Dow Lohnes senior litigation counsel Brent Olson in Washington, D.C., who has joined local firm Loss, Judge & Ward as an associate, and litigation partner Peter Coffman in Atlanta. Coffman is headed to Thompson Hine as a partner in the same city, according to records on file with the State Bar of Georgia, which he confirmed in an email.
Dow Lohnes’ Atlanta base dates back to the 1980s, following the firm’s hire of Marion “Chip” Allen III, who brought with him Cox Enterprises as a key communications client. Allen went on to serve as chairman of Dow Lohnes until he was killed in a 1998 plane crash near Atlanta that also claimed the lives of three other firm partners, the families of whom later agreed to a $42 million settlement in connection with the accident, according to sibling publication the Daily Report.
The Daily Report noted this summer that the loss of Cox as an exclusive client of the firm led to a major shake-up of the Atlanta office, where Dow Lohnes partners decamped in rapid succession for rivals like Sutherland Asbill & Brennan and Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton.
Cox has said publicly it will continue using former Dow Lohnes lawyers for communications regulatory work now that they are at Cooley, and the Atlanta-based cable giant has hosted an annual conservation award named in Chip Allen’s honor. (Coffman is chairman of the Chip Allen Chapter of Ducks Unlimited, a Memphis-based nonprofit dedicated to wetlands conservation.)
While Coffman’s remaining Atlanta colleagues look for new homes, The Washington Post reported over the weekend that another group putting itself on the auction block is Dow Lohnes Government Strategies. Rick Kessler, president of the lobbying unit, told the newspaper that his group decided that joining Cooley wasn’t in their best interests.
Kessler, who was hired by Dow Lohnes as a partner in 2007 to expand the firm’s lobbying base beyond its traditional telecommunications clients, did not respond to a phone call requesting comment about potential suitors for his group, whose billings the WaPo puts at about $3 million per year. The unit has taken in about $1.5 million so far this year, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, and last month signed on a new client in the Online News Association. (Other lobbying clients include Calpine, Chevron, National Grid and Qualcomm.)
Stephen Sayle, a former CEO of Dow Lohnes Government Strategies who was hired by the firm along with Kessler in 2007, recently stepped down from his role as one of Washington, D.C.’s top lobbyists in a rare “reverse revolving door” move to join the the House of Representatives as chief of staff to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s subcommittee on energy.
One attorney who has yet to find a new destination is former Dow Lohnes litigation partner Leslie Wiesenfelder, who was sued along with the firm in late September by ex-client Al Jazeera International. A call to Wiesenfelder—a senior counsel with more than 40 years’ experience at the time he left Dow Lohnes in early October—was not returned by the time of this story.
Dow Lohnes managing partner John Byrnes, who spoke with sibling publication The Blog of Legal Times last month about his firm’s integration plans and is poised to become a member of Cooley’s compensation committee, also did not return a request for comment on whether Cooley would inherit any potential liabilities in the litigation, nor did Ryan Naftulin, Cooley’s business department vice-chair and the managing partner of its office in Washington, D.C.
The malpractice suit, which was filed by Al Jazeera on Sept. 19 in federal court in Greenbelt, Md., accuses Dow Lohnes and Wiesenfelder of botching their representation of Al Jazeera in a contract dispute with a construction company hired to renovate the Qatar-based satellite television network’s offices in Washington, D.C.
Maryland’s Daily Record first reported in September on the case, whose 11-page complaint seeks $2 million from Dow Lohnes and Wiesenfelder. Benjamin Rosenberg, a name partner at Baltimore-based Rosenberg Martin Greenberg representing Al Jazeera, did not return a request for comment. Dow Lohnes has until November 18 to respond to the litigation.
Earlier this year Al Jazeera turned to DLA Piper for counsel on its $500 million purchase of Current TV from former Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. DLA is also handling lobbying work for Al Jazeera, according to The Blog of Legal Times, as the network seeks to expand its presence in the United States.