Husch Blackwell, having announced plans for a new lobbying practice earlier this month, has moved to build out its higher education group with the addition of three partners in Chicago, while also adding a pair of international trade lawyers in Washington, D.C.
In the nation’s capital, the firm hired Nithya Nagarajan and Stephen Brophy as a partner and senior counsel, respectively, for its technology, manufacturing and transportation group. While in the Windy City, higher education lawyers Ellen Babbitt, Peter Land and Scott Warner left local shop Franczek Radelet to join Husch Blackwell as partners.
“We really felt that by partnering with the group at Husch Blackwell we’d be able to better service our clients in what I think we all realize is an increasingly complex legal and regulatory environment,” Warner said. “Having a broader geographic scope also helps us expand our practice and work for more institutions.”
Warner, like Babbitt and Land, are joining the Kansas City, Missouri-based Am Law 100 firm from Franczek Radelet, a firm focused on labor and employment and education work that has around 40 lawyers all based in Chicago. The trio joined Franczek Radelet in 2011 after it absorbed their old shop, Babbitt, Land & Warner, which was formed two decades ago.
The three new Husch Blackwell partners specialize in counseling private and public educational institutions on a variety of issues and challenges. Traditionally their work had been in Illinois, but over the last several years their practice began to expand as the regulatory environment became more complex for schools and universities.
“The scope and the seriousness of the higher education legal issues has really mushroomed and there’s so much government and public scrutiny,” said Babbitt, who has spent four decades advising on faculty issues, as well as representing scholastic institutions in civil litigation and government investigations. “The stakes are really high, so I think that’s what got us thinking about when we had the opportunity, whether we wanted to expand our practice.”
Like Babbitt, Warner works with university administration and faculty on a variety of matters, as well as Title IV issues with respect to litigation and compliance reviews by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Warner began his legal career as an associate at Sidley Austin more than 30 years ago before becoming an associate general counsel at Northwestern University in 2002.
Land, who also specializes on Title IV issues, has worked on a variety of investigations, including allegations of athlete mistreatment by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Husch Blackwell’s current collegiate clients include Michigan State University, which has been under scrutiny for its role in a massive sex scandal.)
In addition to its three Chicago hires, Husch Blackwell has also brought on Nagarajan and Brophy in Washington, D.C. Brophy, who came aboard on Jan. 29, was most recently a partner at Barnes, Richardson & Colburn. Nagarajan, who operates a solo practice in Bethesda, Maryland, will officially join Husch Blackwell on Feb. 12.
Nagarajan, a former international lawyer with the U.S. Department of Commerce, said that she decided to merge her own trade practice with Husch Blackwell because she needed a larger platform to serve her clients that include foreign producers and exporters, as well as U.S. companies exporting to the European Union, India and China.
“Trade remedies is a burgeoning area and an increasingly demanding area of practice,” Nagarajan said. “I chose to merge my practice in order to be able to provide more comprehensive trade advising, as well as enable the growth of my practice.”
Husch Blackwell, which years ago absorbed Wisconsin’s Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek, last year let go of roughly 4 percent of its lawyers as a result of that merger. Paul Eberle, a former head of Whyte Hirschboeck, will become CEO this month of Husch Blackwell.