LEGAL TIMES: What is the growth plan of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton’s Washington office?
LUCANTONIO SALVI: Our D.C. office has been and continues to be in growth mode. We are moving offices to give us more space and meet the strategic initiative of the firm, which is to grow our East Coast practice. I think today we’re at 57 or 58 attorneys. Our growth strategy as an office is to get to 75 to 90 attorneys in the next three to five years. We are strategically focused on growing the M&A corporate practice. We are also focused on submarkets like private equity, defense and health care.
LT: How does the firm find and recruit its attorneys?
SALVI: There are two different strategies that work for us when recruiting attorneys. One is personal relationships. But we also know that headhunters play a very important role in that. Ten years ago we were two attorneys and we are almost 60 now. While it was originally envisioned as being a regulatory hub for our largest clients who were staying up at night, it has now become much more of a full-service office.
JONATHAN ARONIE: We would be lying to ourselves if we said that every lateral over the years has worked out. It certainly hasn’t. But what we would say is that the people who have worked out here did so because they share our enthusiasm and excitement to growing an office.SALVI: I think we’re the only office in all of Sheppard Mullin that is 100 percent lateral partner-staffed. One of the hallmarks of our firm is that the national average for lateral-partner retention is about 40 percent. We are more than double that. We really integrate our lateral partners and self-select ones that will fit well.
LT: What can you say about the firm’s new office?
SALVI: We have just executed a lease and we are going to be getting a property for build-out later this summer. We hope to move into the property by next summer. [The firm now occupies 64,000 square feet with 72 individual offices, compared with 54,000 square feet and 90 offices with expansion space for up to 120 offices at the new digs at 2099 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.]
LT: What drove the desire to expand on the East Coast and more specifically Washington?
ARONIE: [The firm] asked our current clients, "What keeps you up at night?" One of the top answers was the federal government. It is one shared by many of our clients. If you ask companies today, it hasn’t changed that much — it’s still the federal government. The D.C. office continues to be a driver in the firm’s overall strategy.
LT: What keeps you busy outside the practice of law?
ARONIE: I coach my kids’ basketball teams. My wife coaches their soccer teams. We spend a lot of time on weekends driving from one game to another. I ride my bike to work in the good weather, which I love.
SALVI: Both my wife and I are first-generation Americans. My family is all from Italy. My wife’s family is all from western Ukraine. We get a lot of cross-cultural communication in the family. We love to travel. We love to go out on bike rides and go hiking with the kids. We also set aside time for ourselves to try the new restaurants in town.
LT: Do you have a favorite Italian dish?
SALVI: I’m a simple guy. If I have my linguine al pesto, that is pretty much the end-all for me.