Andrew Zausner. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/NLJ)
Shrinking Washington law firm Dickstein Shapiro has lost a significant part of its government law and policy practice group to Greenberg Traurig. Greenberg announced on July 9 that Andrew Zausner, Dickstein’s lobbying chairman, will take 13 attorneys and nonlawyer advocates to the rival shop. The group starts at Greenberg this week, and Zausner will chair the government law and policy practice. Others joining Zausner in the move include shareholder Rob Mangas and former members of Congress Albert Wynn, Peter Hoekstra and Tim Hutchinson.
The group’s move further picked away at Dick­stein’s revenues, profits and headcount, which have dropped more than almost any other Washington-based firm in 18 months.
“The world has changed,” Zausner said in a written statement. “Clients want the kind of broad yet unified and efficient presence that Greenberg Traurig can uniquely deliver. We were also drawn to the opportunity to build upon the fine platform here at a time when disciplined management, independent thinking and real value are increasingly hard to find.”
In the statement, Greenberg Traurig said the Washington metropolitan region was a “growth priority.” Greenberg Traurig and Zausner declined through a spokesman to say more about the move.
Dickstein’s government practices, including ­public policy, political law and congressional investigations, have more than 30 lawyers and advocates, the firm said in its own written statement. “We wish our colleagues the best,” a Dickstein representative said. “Coupled with the strongest state attorneys general practice in the country, Dickstein Shapiro remains committed to providing the highest-caliber strategic advice and legislative counsel for our clients.”
Dickstein Shapiro has faced a rough year and a half, even before Zausner’s group’s departure. The firm shrank its headcount by almost 20 percent in 2013, with proportionate cuts among equity partners, nonequity partners and all lawyers. Gross revenue declined by $51 million to $207.5 million in 2013, a 20 percent drop. Net income fell even more, by almost 35 percent, from $55 million in 2012 to $36 million in 2013. That’s Dickstein’s smallest profit in more than a decade. — Katelyn Polantz
DEMS PRESS ‘HOBBY LOBBY’ FIX
Democrats last week introduced legislation to undo the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that struck down the contraceptive mandate for some corporate owners who object on religious grounds.
Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., filed the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act. The bill would prohibit any federal law — including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — from being interpreted to allow employers to refuse contraceptive coverage.
“Women across the country are outraged, they are demanding a change,” Murray said. “At a time when 99 percent of sexually active women in the U.S. have used birth control, five justices decided last week that a CEO’s personal views can interfere with a woman’s access to this preventive health service.” Lawmakers criticized the majority in the 5-4 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said the Supreme Court “turned the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on its head.” — Todd Ruger
CHEVRON CATCHES UP
Patton Boggs’ fight with Chevron Corp. has cost one of the firm’s former attorneys his new job. Benjamin Chew, former chairman of Patton Boggs’ commercial litigation and antitrust practice, resigned from the partnership at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in the past two weeks, barely four months after moving to the firm, sources familiar with the matter said. Chevron is one of Pillsbury’s longtime clients.
After Chew started at Pillsbury, Patton Boggs agreed to settle with Chevron in a suit rooted in the firm’s representation of environmental activists who won a multibillion-dollar judgment against the oil company. The activists, unhappy with Patton’s deal with Chevron, filed in court a chronology of Patton Boggs’ contact with their lead Ecuadorian lawyer, Pablo Fajardo Mendoza. In that chronology, Fajardo named Chew. “My departure is exclusively due to a potential conflict relating to my prior affiliation with Patton Boggs,” Chew said last week. “I have the utmost respect for Pillsbury, which the firm kindly advises is mutual.” — Katelyn Polantz
Another entry in the “D.C. is a small town” file: Last week, the presiding judge in the criminal case against a suspected ringleader in the attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi disclosed his ties to the U.S. Department of Justice. U.S. District Judge Christopher “Casey” Cooper’s wife is Amy Jeffress, who supervised the national security section of the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington before leaving the position in 2008.
Cooper said he didn’t think there was any conflict, but he wanted to put the information on the record. Jeffress, now a partner at Arnold & Porter, most recently served as the Justice Department’s attaché to the U.S. embassy in London.
Jeffress also previously served as a national security adviser to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. The Washington Post, in a recent article about Cooper and his wife’s work at the Justice Department, noted that Jeffress mentored Michael DiLorenzo, the lead prosecutor in the case against Ahmed Abu Khatallah, charged in the Benghazi attack. The Post also reported that Cooper was a college roommate and friend of John Rice, the brother of National Security Adviser Susan Rice. — Zoe Tillman
EX-STEPTOE CHAIR RETURNS
Leading energy lawyer J.A. “Lon” Bouknight Jr. has returned to Steptoe & Johnson LLP, a firm he once chaired, after serving as general counsel to Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. for nearly five years. Bouknight rejoins Steptoe as a partner in its energy group.
“Lon is simply one of the best energy lawyers to have ever practiced in this field, with unmatched judgment and effectiveness,” Steptoe chairman Phil West said in a written statement.
It’s not the first time Bouknight has returned home to Steptoe — he cycled back in 2008 after serving as general counsel of Edison International for three years. He left again in 2009 to work for Newark-based Public Service Enterprise, one of the top 10 energy companies in the country.
Bouknight, 70, retired from Public Service Enterprise, but said he is eager to keep practicing law. “I wanted to stay in the game,” he said. “I couldn’t envision myself sitting on a porch in a rocking chair in Florida.”
Bouknight first joined Steptoe in 1994, when he led a group of 16 lawyers from energy boutique Newman, Bouknight & Edgar. — Jenna Greene
D.C. PARTNER TO LEAD PERKINS
In its continuing effort to raise its national profile, Perkins Coie has named John Devaney as its first firm leader outside of its Seattle headquarters.
Devaney will be based in Washington when he takes the reins as managing partner on Jan. 1, 2015. Perkins Coie will keep its headquarters in the Pacific Northwest. “It reflects our view that we are truly a national firm,” Devaney said last week in an interview, adding that he plans to travel to Seattle often. Devaney, 56, will replace longtime firm veteran Robert Giles, who has served as Perkins Coie’s managing partner since 1986. Devaney said he plans to build on Giles’ initiatives, including expanding the firm’s number of attorneys, profits and geographic reach. “He allowed us to grow from a regional to a national and international firm,” Devaney said. “My primary objective is to keep up that momentum and allow us to provide the very best legal services that are cost effective, to allow us to compete in this volatile market.” Giles, 64, announced his intention three years ago to step down as managing partner at the end of this year, the firm said in a news release. — M.P. McQueen, The American Lawyer
JUDGE RECUSES IN BOOZ CASE
A District of Columbia Superior Court judge last week agreed to step down from a sex discrimination case against Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. after revealing that his son worked for a Booz Allen subsidiary. Judge Michael Rankin alerted lawyers in late June that his son worked for subsidiary company ASE Inc. Rankin said he didn’t think his son’s job “would prejudice or otherwise affect” his judgment but disclosed the connection “out of an abundance of caution.”
But lawyers for plaintiff Margo Fitzpatrick wanted another judge. In court papers filed on July 2, Fitzpatrick’s lead attorney, Debra Katz of Katz, Marshall & Banks, wrote that Rankin should recuse “to avoid the appearance of impropriety.” In a footnote, Katz said her side wasn’t accusing Rankin of any actual misconduct, but worried there was a perception problem.
Booz Allen’s lead attorney, McGuireWoods partner Stephen Robinson, filed a response on July 8 arguing that any connection Rankin’s son might have to the case was “speculative and de minimis, at best.” Rankin didn’t explain his decision to recuse in the July 10 order granting Fitzpatrick’s request. — Zoe Tillman
FBI DOCS DAMAGED IN FLOOD
Writer William Vollmann still hasn’t seen everything the FBI has on him.
Blame flood waters for the delay. Using available government records, Vollmann last year wrote about the FBI’s surveillance of him in a piece for Harper’s Magazine titled “Life as a Terrorist.” (The FBI once considered him the Unabomber suspect.) The feds are amid a “very challenging” remediation process to try to restore water-damaged records, an FBI official told a judge last week. Documents will be “vacuum freeze-dried, cleaned, sanitized and then returned to the FBI for use,” the official said. The process, once initiated, is expected to take at least four months to complete. — Mike Scarcella