Colette Dafoe. (Courtesy photo)
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 email@example.com.
Colette Dafoe has a lot on her hands these days. The 37-year-old real estate transactions partner stepped up to become managing partner of Nixon Peabody’s Washington office at the beginning of July. And she happens to be seven months pregnant.
Dafoe said she got the promotion before she knew she’d need to take maternity leave. “I was a little curious what the reception would be to that,” she said.
Still, “When I called up [Nixon Peabody CEO] Andrew Glincher to tell him I was not done having kids and was due in September, he couldn’t have been more congratulatory,” she said.
While she plans a flexible schedule once she has the baby (her second child), Dafoe has jumped full-time into her new role at the firm.
About two weeks ago, Dafoe held a strategic planning meeting with Nixon Peabody’s 40 Washington partners.
Jeffrey Lesk, the outgoing office managing partner, was in attendance. “He’s fabulous. I have very big shoes to fill,” Dafoe said of her colleague, who led the office for seven years and was a frequent public commentator on the D.C. legal industry. The firm says Lesk will return to his tax credit finance practice and will continue to implement the office’s solar power initiative, which put solar panels on the firm’s Washington office roof and returns the energy they collect to the community.
Still, Dafoe identified ways she’d like to adjust Lesk’s approach. She’s encouraging more partner engagement in the office, she said.
Dafoe, a real estate lawyer, would like to elevate that practice in D.C. by making it better known and more expansive—a “bigger bench,” she said. The real estate group currently has 19 practitioners based in Washington and is focused largely in the niche areas of tax credit finance and affordable housing.
“My theme is ‘Do more dirt in D.C.,’” she said. “D.C. attorneys can be a dime a dozen. We want to stick out not just as a national firm but internationally. There’s a crane on every corner in D.C.”
Dafoe also is focused on improving the office’s diversity statistics. The firm says about 15 percent of its associates are African-American, 7 percent are Asian-American, 4 percent are Hispanic and 11 percent identify as LGBT. Among partners in D.C., the figures are 5 percent African-American, 5 percent Hispanic, 7 percent LGBT and zero Asian-Americans, Nixon Peabody said.
“The D.C. office is already a little bit ahead of the other offices in the firm” in its diversity, she said. But “we’re poised to be an example. I want to really be able to brag about it.”
Dafoe said she’s already worked on diversity issues as part of her time on the firm’s recruiting committee and professional personnel committees.
This will be her first time in firm management.
The week’s lateral moves:
- Reed Smith added three attorneys to its federal energy regulations practice in D.C. Former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission commissioner Colette Honorable will be a partner. Prior to 2014 when she joined FERC, she was commissioner of the Arkansas Public Service Commission and past-president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. Partner Regina Speed-Bost and counsel Debra Ann Palmer join her; they both leave Schiff Hardin, where Speed-Bost led the firm’s energy group, was coordinating partner of the Washington office and chair of its firmwide diversity committee.
- Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati lost Donald Vieira, the former chief of staff in the Justice Department’s national security division, to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Vieira had led Wilson Sonsini’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) and national security practice. Vieira worked in government positions from 2005 to 2011.
- That’s not everyone leaving Wilson Sonsini. Cooley picked up four partners from the firm, including Robert Sanchez in Washington, D.C. Sanchez was with Wilson Sonsini for 24 years and focuses on M&A, public and private financing work. Cooley expects to hire 20 additional lawyers to help the group, and considers the corporate tech attorneys’ books to be “portable.”
- After word that McDermott, Will & Emery would lose of large group of labor and employment partners in Washington and Chicago, we finally know their names. The Washington-based McDermott lawyers going to Winston & Strawn are David Rogers and Joanna Kerpen, who will be partners at Winston, and Brian Benko, who will be of counsel.
- Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer has enticed another top antitrust official back to the firm’s D.C. office. Deborah Feinstein rejoins the firm after serving as the Federal Trade Commission’s top antitrust enforcer for four years. She had previously worked at the firm from 1991 until 2013. She’ll lead Arnold & Porter’s antitrust global.
- Crowell & Moring’s international trade consulting subsidiary C&M International has a new president and CEO. Ambassador Robert Holleyman, who served as deputy U.S. trade representative in the Obama administration and has special expertise in digital trade and internet-related policies, will succeed Kate Clemans in the job. Clemans has retired. Holleyman will also be a partner at the law firm’s international trade group.
- Crowell & Moring also added a senior policy director, Traci Vitek, during the week. Vitek was a congressional affairs adviser at the Department of Health & Human Service’s inspector general’s office.
- The midsize New Jersey firm Bressler, Amery & Ross has opened a D.C. office. The firm has other offices in Florham Park, New Jersey; Birmingham, Alabama; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; New York and Miami. Kim Larsen, who shuttered his solo practice last year, will be the office’s chief lawyer and a firm principal. He is so far Bressler’s only Washington-based lawyer. Earlier in his career, Larsen led Mayer Brown’s Cologne, Germany, office. Larsen’s professional bio notes that he’s founded an angel investor group and a start-up accelerator based in D.C., and is interested in history and woodworking.
- Bracewell has a new head of its civil litigation practice in David Super, who’ll be a Washington-based partner. Super leaves Baker Botts after almost three decades.
- Kirkland & Ellis hired Alpa Patel as a partner in the investment funds group in Washington. Patel joins from a six-year stint at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. She previously was chief of the division of investment management’s private funds branch.
- Perkins Coie picked up Jon Jacobs as a partner for its antitrust practice. He spent the last 27 years at the Department of Justice.
- The employment firm Outten & Golden added Susan Huhta as a partner in Washington, representing individual employees. She previously was senior counsel at Heller Huron Chertkof & Salzman.
- Blank Rome added Jane Barrett as of counsel in its white-collar defense and investigations group. Barrett had worked at the firm previously following its acquisition of Dyer Ellis & Joseph, where she had been chair of the white collar and government investigations group, then directed the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law.
- Howard Sklamberg moved from the Food and Drug Administration to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld as a partner in the health care and life sciences practice. He was deputy commissioner for global regulatory operations and policy and has worked in the government for almost two decades.
- Selzer Gurvitch Rabin Wertheimer Polott & Obecny added Jonathan Pisha as a partner in the banking and lender representation and corporate practice groups. Pisha leaves an in-house counsel role at the Bethesda-based private equity firm American Capital. Earlier, he was an associate at Hogan & Hartson.
- Rachel Hirsch is the newest member at Washington litigation boutique Ifrah Law, where she’ll specialize in online advertising and iGaming cases. She previously worked at Venable and at Meyers, Rodbell & Rosenbaum.
- President Donald Trump chose Kevin McIntyre, co-chair of Jones Day’s energy practice, to be the next FERC chair.
In other D.C.-area industry news:
- The National Bar Association, the country’s largest and oldest network of black attorneys and judges, relaunched its political action committee. The voluntary bar now plans to support Republicans and non-black candidates—”ANY candidates and incumbents and BOTH sides of the aisle,” a statement asserted—if those candidates support issues important to the National Bar Association.
- Citi Private Bank was out last week with its six-month outlook for the legal industry. Firm managing partners are optimists.
- My colleague Marcia Coyle looked at how Supreme Court decisions have curtailed the work of federal prosecutors.
- Donald Trump Jr. hired boutique New York litigator Alan Futerfas to represent him, and not a moment too soon. Futerfas spoke to my colleague Christine Simmons shortly after his appointment. There’s a possibility Trump Jr. may seek additional legal help, according to Mike Allen of Axios.
- Nina Totenberg of NPR analyzed what laws Trump Jr. could have broken.
- There’s a lot to catch up on regarding Marc Kasowitz, the New York firm founder who’s President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer. On Tuesday night, ProPublica wrote a story about difficulty Kasowitz could face in a security clearance process because of alleged past behavior. (ALM columnist Jenna Greene points out that the security clearance question may be a red herring.) The same day, the New York Times had floated a story about how the West Wing may be at odds with Kasowitz. Two days later, after a stranger emailed him about the topic, Kasowitz unleashed a flood of profanities, then apologized. We spoke to a partner at Kasowitz’s firm who defended the embattled lawyer.
- Could Kasowitz bow out from the president’s representation? Mike Allen of Axios reports Kasowitz “will likely be diminished or leave the team” …
- … Just as Ty Cobb of Hogan Lovells steps up to the plate. Cobb was named special counsel to the president, to coordinate the approach to the Russia investigation from inside the White House. (Also of note, this Bloomberg piece that broke the news Friday includes a Lanny Davis cameo!) Cobb resigned from the firm—where he’s worked for three decades—effective at the end of July.
- I broke the story Friday that Jamie Gorelick of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr is refocusing her work for Jared Kushner and will only handle his ethics and security clearance issues. She steps back from handling his legal needs in the Russia investigation, as Abbe Lowell of Norton Rose Fulbright becomes Kushner’s point man.
- My colleague Jenna Greene—you should read her daily column in ALM’s Litigation Daily if you don’t already—explains how difficult Gorelick’s and Cobb’s work for players in this mess could be for their firms. And the Washington Post outlines just how difficult a client Trump has become for his legal team. The Post story also raises the question of who will pay for Trump’s defense. Might it be the Republican party?
- Even more lawyers materialized in the Russia investigation’s public relations melee last week. The pop singer Emin Agalarov and his father, who appear to have had some hand in the Trump campaign’s meeting with the Russians, retained Scott Balber of Herbert Smith Freehills in New York. Rod Goldstone, the publicist of the pop singer who emailed with Donald Trump Jr., chose Robert Gage Jr. of Gage Spencer & Fleming.
- If you need a refresher on all the lawyers circling around the Russia investigation, look no further than our overview.
- Follow the lawyers, follow the money. Politico reports how much the Trump campaign paid Futerfas and Jones Day from April to June this year. From the campaign disclosure alone, it appears Trump Jr. retained Futerfas two weeks before he and the New York Times revealed the questionable campaign emails.
- The Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Investigative Reporting are attempting to organize and find conflicts of interest in the vast trove of disclosure documents filed by Trump administration appointees.
- Chris Wray of King & Spalding testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week as they consider his nomination for FBI director. Wray disclosed just how much money he made at King & Spalding—a whopper of a number.
- William Emanuel, one of Trump’s picks for the National Labor Relations Board, also revealed his pay and his client list.
- The best thing we’ve seen this year on anyone’s federal financial disclosure was definitely a Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick partner’s affinity for the luxe furniture her firm provided.
- Tom Donilon, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser and now vice chair of O’Melveny & Myers, looks back at his regrets.
- Some litigation news to note from the week: If the president blocks you on Twitter, is it a violation of free speech? This lawsuit seeks an answer.
- Another lawsuit alleges that the Trump campaign and adviser Roger Stone breached the Democratic National Committee’s privacy. Charlie Savage of The New York Times explains how this civil suit could become the judge-directed counterpart to the ongoing Justice Department and Congressional investigations into the alleged Russian email hack during the campaign.
- Kasowitz faces a new lawsuit as well. An insurance industry client of Kasowitz Benson Torres claims the firm overbilled because the work it did for the client wasn’t “commensurate with a law firm that represents the president of the United States.” The firm says it’s a frivolous lawsuit.
- The Senate Judiciary Committee sought out some experienced perspectives as it continues pushing for answers in the Russia investigation. Mayer Brown partners Richard Ben-Veniste and Andrew Frey gave the committee advice on July 11 based on what they’ve learned from living history.
- Finally, everyone loves a good Buzzfeed online quiz. This one is especially timely. It decides “Which Trump child are you?”