Blacktail Butte (foreground) and the Teton mountain range of western Wyoming (Sam Beebe/Ecotrust)
Crowell & Moring, which last week watched its Anchorage office join Holland & Hart, has also shuttered a small outpost in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Former state Gov. Dave Freudenthal, who helmed the firm’s presence in the city for the past six years, has started his own shop.
Freudenthal, who joined Crowell & Moring as senior counsel in 2011, told The American Lawyer that his departure from the firm on Jan. 1 had been in the works for some time. The Cheyenne office, Freudenthal wrote in an email, mostly existed because he had little interest in relocating to Washington, D.C.
“At 66 and with a grand wife and suddenly enjoying the role of grandparent plus desiring to spend less time on work life, the future I envision does not include working as much as I have in the past,” Freudenthal said. “With my departure, it made sense to close the office.”
Freudenthal called the separation process “easy and graceful on all sides.” He coordinated his departure with Crowell & Moring’s new leader, Angela Styles, and COO James Dixon, who joined the firm last year from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. Freudenthal said that both were easy to work with and that employees in Cheyenne “were treated more than fairly.”
In a statement, Crowell & Moring confirmed the departure of Freudenthal and thanked him for his years of service to the Washington, D.C.-based firm, which is reportedly in merger talks with New York’s Herrick, Feinstein.
“In addition to his stature as a nationally recognized leader on a wide array of energy issues, Dave is a skilled lawyer, wise counsel and friend, and we hope to continue to collaborate with him,” Crowell & Moring said in a statement.
The American Lawyer noted last summer the departure of Crowell & Moring energy and natural resources counsel Ryan Lance in Cheyenne to become senior vice president and general counsel at the Sweetwater River Conservancy, which oversees some 638,000 acres of private, state and federal land in an area near Casper, Wyoming’s second-largest city. (Lance spoke with the Casper Star-Tribune last year about his new role.)
Bruce Salzburg, a former attorney general of Wyoming who in 2012 reunited with Freudenthal at Crowell & Moring in Cheyenne, left his role as senior counsel at the firm a little more than a year ago to join local shop Hirst Applegate. Freudenthal, who is married to U.S. District Court Chief Judge Nancy Freudenthal, served as a Democratic governor of Wyoming in the heavily Republican state from 2003 until his retirement in 2011.
Freudenthal (pictured right) anticipates a smooth transition to being a solo practitioner in the same office where Crowell & Moring was based in Cheyenne. After graduating from the University of Wyoming College of Law in 1980, Freudenthal started his own solo practice, eventually becoming a name partner at Cheyenne’s Herschler, Freudenthal, Salzburg, Bonds & Rideout. He left private practice in 1994 after President Bill Clinton named him U.S. attorney for Wyoming. Freudenthal held that position until his November 2002 election to governor.
For the time being, Freudenthal does not expect to enlist any former Crowell & Moring colleagues to join his new firm. If he does add someone later, he said that person will most likely be a regional or local choice, rather than someone with a more national practice focus. Freudenthal recognizes that without the backing of Crowell & Moring, a 440-lawyer firm known for its close ties to the natural resources industry, his access to certain clients will be curtailed.
“It is much nicer to have established clients rather than waiting for work to come in the door,” Freudenthal said. “For now, I like the way it is working and enjoy the absence of trappings associated with large organizations. For instance, conflicts checks are pretty easy, I ask myself if I have a conflict, check the rules when in doubt and the task is done.”
Since he was not an equity partner at Crowell & Moring, Freudenthal said he was not privy to deliberations about the firm’s long-term strategy, such as its reported discussions with Herrick, Feinstein or decision to withdraw from Alaska. Styles, named chair of Crowell & Moring in 2015, told The American Lawyer last week that her firm was keen on building out a number of its national practices and presences on both coasts. Crowell & Moring reiterated its commitment to the natural resources sector in a statement provided to The American Lawyer.
“The capabilities of our energy and environment and natural resources groups are national in scope with a strong federal regulatory presence in Washington,” the firm said. “Particularly regarding the firm’s energy work, the vast majority of it is done out of our offices in D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles.”
The American Lawyer reported last summer on Crowell & Moring ending a relationship with an Egyptian firm in Cairo, a move that came on the heels of the conclusion of its merger talks with another New York firm, Satterlee Stephens Burke & Burke. While Crowell & Moring has not publicly acknowledged its tie-up talks with Herrick, Feinstein, the two firms may have already taken at least one step towards a potential combination.
Internet domain name registration records show that the website www.herrickcrowell.com was registered anonymously on Dec. 27.