Drinker Biddle & Reath’s offices in Washington, D.C. (Diego M. Radzinschi)
Washington Wrap is a weekly roundup of Big Law hires and other Washington, D.C., legal industry news. Read the previous edition here. Send tips and lateral moves to Katelyn Polantz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Drinker Biddle & Reath’s recent D.C. office makeover didn’t take the legal industry’s newfangled, millennial-oriented design advice.
The Philadelphia-based firm instead chose to revamp its current office in the historic Southern Railway building with inspiration from the Gilded Age.
The space was due for a revamp. Drinker had combined its legacy lawyers at 1500 K St. NW in Washington with Gardner Carton & Douglas, a Chicago firm with a D.C. office down the street, a decade ago. Its 96 current lawyers still were spread throughout the building and somewhat cut off from one another.
Floor to floor, “it looked like a completely different firm,” now-regional partner in charge Maureen Donahue Hardwick said. Hardwick, who joined from Gardner Carton, at one point had employed wine parties to encourage lawyers to mix throughout the space. This renovation, which lasted 18 months and finished in February, continued her integration efforts, ensuring that every floor matches in style. The building hadn’t been renovated in 20 years.
Design elements in the renovation include dark-paned windows and light fixtures with triangle and rectangular designs–a kind of Art Deco-meets-Restoration Hardware aesthetic. The space has far fewer white walls, and instead uses deep browns, tans and grayish blues. Drinker’s total footprint in the building is now smaller by about 20,000 square feet.
There are also far fewer of the glass room dividers and exterior walls that many firms have favored for office renovations. Hardwick said her Drinker colleagues were attached to the building’s historical elements, such as the deep-set windows and their views of McPherson Square. The firm also had to keep three rooms almost entirely as-is because of the 88-year-old building’s history. Those are a large conference room with a marble fireplace and balconette, the railway’s original walnut-paneled board room and the president’s office.
“If 200 people in one place can have a personality, I think we do,” Hardwick said of the office.
While she’s thrilled with the office interior, Hardwick and others at the firm are heartbroken to lose a favorite lunch spot right outside the building, Pedro & Vinny’s burrito stand, which closed on Friday. “This week that’s all I’ve been eating. I cry at everything, and I won’t be able to look at him,” she said of the cart’s owner, John Rider.
The week’s lateral moves:
• Kia Scipio became the diversity and inclusion manager at Fish & Richardson in D.C. The intellectual property firm follows several others by expanding its focus on one of the most difficult areas for law firms to improve upon. Scipio previously worked at Georgetown University Law Center, building relationships with small and medium firms and handling diversity initiatives. She also previously worked for Paul Hastings and McKenna Long & Aldridge.
“For a lot of people, they want something different without doing anything differently,” Scipio said. She’ll have enough to do at her new firm: At the end of 2016, it counted seven out of 94 equity partners who identify as racial or ethnic minorities. In the 54-lawyer nonequity partnership, there were 11. The firm counted 41 minority associates out of 110 total.
• Hogan Lovells, which welcomed its summer associate class, launched a global LGBT and allies network called Pride+. The initiative aims to challenge stereotypes and anti-gay behavior and language and provide safe environments for individuals to come out if they choose. Hogan Lovells has offices in some of the most oppressive countries for gay rights, including in Moscow.
• Jenner & Block’s lateral train made another stop this week to pick up three new lawyers from the Federal Communications Commission in D.C. The firm added partner Howard Symons, the FCC’s former general counsel; counsel Roger Sherman, former chief of the wireless telecommunications bureau; and special counsel Johanna Thomas, former legal adviser to a commissioner at the FCC. Symons previously chaired the communications group at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, while Sherman long ago was at Wiley Rein, and then at the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. Prior to the FCC, Thomas worked at Arnold & Porter.
While they join a long-established practice in the firm’s Washington office, the lawyers will allow Jenner to specialize more on telecom industry developments in wireless technology. ”They can be utility players like the rest of us, but that’s the differentiator from our existing people,” Sam Feder, Jenner’s D.C. managing partner, said. Jenner often represents cable companies, including Charter Communications and Comcast Corp.
• Jenner isn’t the only firm boasting an FCC official landing. Kathleen Abernathy, a former commissioner for the agency, returns to Wilkinson Barker Knauer, the firm said on May 15. Abernathy was FCC commissioner from 2001 to 2005, before moving to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, followed by Wilkinson. She has worked for Frontier Communications Corp. since 2010.
• Thompson Hine picked up a government contracts group from Cooley that included two new partners, Thomas Mason and Chip Purcell.
• Sonia Pfaffenroth, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the antitrust division at the U.S. Department of Justice, will rejoin Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer in September as a partner. The announcement comes hardly a week after the firm announced antitrust division chief Bill Baer would return as well. Before moving up in the ranks at Justice, Pfaffenroth had been Baer’s chief of staff.
• Remember those two unnamed partners who promised to move to Steptoe & Johnson as part of the firm’s acquisition of six total laterals? Though they aren’t in Washington, D.C., here’s the update: Patent litigator Kelly Eberspecher and trial lawyer Tery Gonsalves joined the firm in Chicago from Husch Blackwell and Katten Muchin Rosenman, respectively.
• The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission often needs lawyers, and it got its latest batch straight from Big Law. Among five hires in the past two weeks, the SEC chose Willkie Farr & Gallagher partner Robert Stebbins as general counsel.
In other D.C.-area industry news:
• Ask and you shall receive, Preet. Now that Robert Mueller III of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr is special counsel investigating the Trump campaign, there’s lots to consider regarding the former FBI director, including his “unflinching gaze” and the conflicts he’s distanced himself from by resigning from Wilmer. Firm lawyers James Quarles and Aaron Zebley join him in the probe.
• Former Solicitor General Neal Katyal has some extra thoughts on what the special counsel role means, since he worked on the regulations for the position.
• We may find out President Donald Trump’s choice for FBI director before the week is over. For now, we know it won’t be Alice Fisher, former D.C. managing partner of Latham & Watkins, because she withdrew from the race this week after interviewing with the attorney general and deputy attorney general. Former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, who’s now affiliated with Kasowitz Benson Torres, is a top finalist.
• Trump advisers must be paying attention to stories from Reuters and my colleague Marcia Coyle, who talked to several lawyers suggesting the president hire personal defense counsel. Sources near the White House told The New York Times that Trump’s confidants are suggesting he find a white-collar lawyer, and soon. If you know or want to guess who might represent Trump, tell me at email@example.com.
• Amid all the hubbub over the fate of the nation, Sanford Heisler Sharp slapped another gender discrimination lawsuit against a Washington law office. This time, Proskauer Rose is in the plaintiffs’ firm’s crosshairs, on behalf of an unnamed female partner who in particular was offended by the behavior of current partner and former Dewey & LeBoeuf lawyer Ralph Ferrara.
• Jenner & Block thinks calling a practice “white-collar” may be too negative, so the firm rechristened it as an investigations, compliance and defense specialty.
• Corey Lewandowski, the former Trump campaign manager, didn’t make it as a lobbyist. GQ went deep to explain why and how he failed.
• On a lighter note, congratulations, McGuireWoods white-collar associate Michael Baudinet! The Richmond lawyer and his wife Margaret had quintuplets and even introduced them to the law firm on Tuesday.
• Since we all long to return to the time when tax reform is the most exciting item on Washington’s agenda, here’s a story from The Washington Post about how lobbyists are waiting for that policy “bonanza.”
• Ahead of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ill-fated trip to Washington this week, the Washington Examiner looked at which lobbyists work for his foreign government. They include Greenberg Traurig and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who is affiliated with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz.
• The Washington Examiner also noted this week a contract Bob Dole and Alston & Bird has with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
• George Washington University Law student Andrew Miller saved Baker McKenzie partner John Rowley III when he was attacked earlier this month by a band of teenagers at the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station. Rowley told the local Fox news affiliate, “There is a silver lining here. It’s that I have an opportunity to meet and get to know this young man because he really is a cut above. I haven’t had too much time to work on him yet, but I am a former federal prosecutor and I am trying to nudge him in that direction.”
• Almost a full week ago, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius had its name on “Saturday Night Live.” We fashioned a story about what that must be like for the firm, and ALM Careerist columnist Vivia Chen had some questions too. It appears the initial idea that all coverage was good coverage for this firm might not hold.
• Also this week, U.S. attorneys’ offices are internalizing guidelines from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to use the strictest charges possible. Criminal defense attorneys and some others weren’t happy, nor was former Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., who released a statement criticizing the change.
• Speaking of Holder, he appears to be responsible for former President Barack Obama’s hip, deep-V shirt look as of late. Will an unbuttoned cool catch on inside Covington & Burling, where Holder is a partner, too?
• White & Case’s D.C. office has two nap pods now, so that lawyers can relax and recharge. If there were ever a week to brag about the relaxation spaceships in your office, this was it.