Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker is looking to duplicate the lobbying success it’s had at New York’s capital at Connecticut’s seat of government, firm leaders said. In early January, the national law firm announced the opening of a new office in Hartford that will focus in part on governmental relations.
Wilson Elser “has the most successful lobbying firm in Albany,” said David A. Rose, the partner responsible for forming the law firm’s governmental relations practice in Connecticut. According to the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, Wilson Elser has more than 160 lobbying clients in Albany.
As for the goals in Connecticut, Rose noted that Wilson Elser does not have a “niche lobbying practice” like some other firms.
“We’re a law firm,” Rose said. “As long as we can ensure there’s not a conflict with any existing clients we’re hopeful to work with as many and varied” lobbying clients as Wilson Elser does in Albany.
Rose has been involved in governmental affairs for 21 years either as a governmental lawyer or lobbyist. He worked as senior counsel for two Connecticut House speakers: Democrats Moira Lyons and James Amann. In 2007, he went to work as assistant counsel for then-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and stayed on through the tenure of Gov. David Patterson and then through the transition of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
While there are a lot of similarities between Hartford and Albany, Rose said that “Connecticut has a much more transparent government” that is easier to access as a lobbyist or as a regular citizen. Unlike in Albany, anyone can walk into the Capitol building in Hartford without having to pass through metal detectors, he said.
If you spend enough time in the building, you will run into state leaders just by virtue of using the common elevators and corridors, Rose said.
“You have to be at the Capitol,” Rose said, to have the opportunity to meet with top lawmakers, including the happenstance meetings in which elevator speeches for clients can be rolled out. There’s nothing that beats the in-person interaction to “tell your client’s story,” Rose said.
But, he noted, the Capitol cafeteria is “a very social scene” and is not the best place to do heavy-duty work. And so the new office will offer a place to hold meetings and a quiet place away from the Capitol to do substantive work.
“It’s going to be tremendous in terms of business development,” said Rose.
Wilson Elser was No. 105 on the Am Law 200 survey of the nation’s largest law firms with gross revenues of $293 million in 2012. The Hartford office is the fifth the firm has opened in the past three years or so. Other new locations are in Louisville, Ky., West Palm Beach, Fla., Denver and Milwaukee. The firm now has nearly 800 lawyers in 25 offices in the U.S. and one in London.
In 2004, the company opened a Stamford office, which has grown to about 20 lawyers. When Rose joined Wilson Elser just under two years ago, firm leaders hoped to use his previous governmental experience in Hartford and Albany to expand its book of business in Connecticut and eventually open a Hartford office, said Brian Del Gatto, the regional managing partner of the Wilson Elser Connecticut offices.
In part, those plans came to fruition largely because “David has done such a phenomenal job” with his governmental relations work and expanding the firm’s visibility in the state, Del Gatto said. In addition to better serving clients in Connecticut’s capital region, Del Gatto said the new Hartford office will serve as a springboard for the firm to build more business in the rest of New England.
In addition to governmental relations, Wilson Elser focuses on insurance coverage and defense work, and Del Gatto noted that the new office is much closer to Hartford’s still-sizable concentration of insurance firms. Key Wilson Elser partners joining Rose in Hartford will be Stephen Brown, who heads the firm’s Connecticut litigation practice, and Eric Niederer, whose practice focuses on health-care law.
Meanwhile, Del Gatto’s Stamford-based practice includes doing legal work related to transportation, logistics and cargo and serving as counsel to large insurance companies involved in transportation and other industries.
There are no plans to shrink the Stamford office to staff the Hartford operation. In fact, Del Gatto said, if he could have a “real hope and a wish … the plan is to have 20 or 30 lawyers in the next couple of years” in the Hartford office as well.•