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.
Mark Lewis, the managing partner of Bracewell’s office in Washington, D.C., likes to talk about his experience with legal headhunters. They call him a lot—both because he’s looking to hire laterals, and because they would like to poach away his oil and gas transactional practice, he said.
A headhunter call intending the latter woke up Lewis about a year ago. He essentially told the headhunter, “Why don’t you try to help me at Bracewell rather than get me to move?” Lewis recalls the headhunter saying, “I’ve asked around, but that sale would be hard.”
Laterals in the nation’s capital either didn’t think of Bracewell when they look to move, or they thought of the departure of “The Mayor,” as Bracewell partners even now refer to Rudy Giuliani, the firm’s former name partner who left for Greenberg Traurig in January 2016.
The office still struggles to grow, though Lewis hopes to change that trajectory.
Lewis realized that the mayor’s departure, coupled with a general stagnation in the office’s small size, created a message of instability, even in Washington, D.C. “It made us realize we had to get a positive message out,” Lewis said. “I think the firm is in a good place right now.”
“We were about the same, with silos and people who worked by themselves,” Lewis recalled. “I’ve wanted to grow since I took on this role. It was either that or dealing with problems—‘Mark, my computer’s slow.’ What can I do about that?”
What he could do, however, was focus the office on certain practice areas.
“What we’ve decided is we’re not all things to all people,” Lewis said. “We’re not just gonna bring in dogs and cats. It’s why growth is hard.”
Last year, Bracewell’s Washington office size didn’t inch forward. The office counted about three fewer lawyers in 2016 than the year before, for about 38 total. Lewis has managed to land a few new partners and practices in the past several months, however.
Most recently, David Super traded in 27 years at Baker Botts for an office near Lewis’ as Bracewell was in the market for a first-chair trial litigator in Washington after partner Richard Beckler—a lateral recruit from Howrey—left the firm in May to become general counsel at the General Services Administration. Super and Lewis had started as Baker Botts summer associates together decades earlier.
Hans Dyke, an energy transactions partner, also joined Bracewell in April from Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer after Lewis received a headhunter’s cold call about him. A month earlier, Bracewell picked up Robert Wagman Jr., a government contracts partner also leaving Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer’s office in the nation’s capital.
Wagman’s practice, Lewis said, is just “a beachhead” for Bracewell. Expert more soon.
The past two weeks’ lateral moves:
- You know her name, now you’ll know her firm. Kerrie Campbell, ousted from Chadbourne & Parke’s partnership this spring ahead of the firm’s combination with Norton Rose Fulbright, now has her own shop in Washington, D.C. The American Lawyer, which earlier this week noted Norton Rose Fulbright’s addition to Campbell’s gender bias suit against Chadbourne, reported a week ago about her new firm, which uses the slogan “Grit with grace.”
- There’s a second new firm in town to note this week. Benjamin Crump, the civil rights lawyer who represented the families of shooting victims Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, has opened his own national firm with offices in Los Angeles, Tallahassee, Florida, and Washington, D.C. Ben Crump Law will partner with the personal injury firm Morgan & Morgan, which has offices across the southeast.
- Reed Smith global managing partner Alexander “Sandy” Thomas, who is based in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., started his second term in the firm’s top leadership role on July 31. He’s been in the position since 2014 and is now scheduled to remain there until 2021.
- Williams & Connolly partner William Doffermyre has traded in a lucrative Big Law job to become general counsel at the Overseas Private Investment Corp., a federa foreign investment agency known as OPIC. Doffermyre isn’t the only lawyer from the firm heading in-house. Counsel Scott Dasovich and Paul Hourihan both left the firm’s headquarters in recent weeks to head for the West Coast, taking jobs at Chevron Corp. and The Western Union Co., respectively.
- Speaking of Williams & Connolly, the firm shot down a rumor that it was poised to merge with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. Jenna Greene of The Litigation Daily explained why that speculative combination would have been a bad idea anyways.
- Sidley Austin recruited James Lowe as an antitrust partner in Washington, D.C., from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where he spent roughly the past 23 years.
- Orlando Cabrera joined Arnall Golden Gregory as a partner in the real estate group’s affordable housing team. He comes from Squire Patton Boggs, where he was counsel and led the tax credit and community development group at the global legal giant.
- K&L Gates has a new health policy lobbyist. Amanda Makki joined the firm’s public policy and law group as a partner, having previously worked at Danish pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk A/S and been a senior health adviser to Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
- Michael Best & Friedrich picked up Eversheds Sutherland associate Cheryl Aaron as senior counsel for its corporate, derivatives and transactional practices in Washington, D.C.
- Weiwei Luo, a former associate at Foley & Lardner, has left the firm to become of counsel in the environmental law and China regulatory practice groups at Beveridge & Diamond in Washington, D.C.
- McCarter & English has hired three energy partners from Holland & Knight in Allen O’Neil, Christine Ryan and Emily Streett, all of whom had joined their now former firm in 2014 as part of a mass lateral move from a Beltway boutique.
- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can get to work again, now that it has a quorum following the U.S. Senate’s confirmations of Robert Powelson and Neil Chatterjee.
- Special counsel Robert Mueller III added another member to his investigation team. Greg Andres, a white-collar specialist from Davis Polk & Wardwell, became the 16th attorney on the squad. His appointment prompted Andres’ wife, Ronnie Abrams, a federal judge in Manhattan, to recuse herself from suits on her docket challenging President Donald Trump on emoluments.
- Thomas Wheeler II has left his post as acting head of the civil rights division at the U.S. Department of Justice to return to Frost Brown Todd’s partnership in Indianapolis. (No, he’s not the same Tom Wheeler as the Federal Communications Commission chair.) The civil rights division’s assistant attorney general nominee, Jones Day’s Eric Dreiband, has not yet been confirmed.
- King & Spalding’s Christopher Wray—he of the whopping $9.2 million Big Law pay package—received a 92-5 approval vote from the U.S. Senate to replace James Comey Jr. as the nation’s next FBI director. Wray’s former King & Spalding colleague, Gilbert Kaplan, revealed a $1.06 million pay package in disclosure forms as he seeks to become undersecretary for international trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
In other D.C.-area industry news:
The week’s lateral moves:
- It’s a great time to learn about how grand juries work, since The Wall Street Journal reports that Mueller’s team has convened one in Washington, D.C., and Reuters adding that it has started to issue subpoenas related to the Trump campaign’s meetings with certain Russians. BuzzFeed’s Zoe Tillman explained how the grand jury may function, while my colleague Cogan Schneier outlined what this grand jury phase of the Mueller investigation might signal.
- Big firms in Washington, D.C., with their smaller profit margins but equal ambitions to those of New York’s legal elite, felt a pinch last year from the amount they pay associates. I wrote an in-depth look for The American Lawyer about why a lockstep salary scale has some firms fearing about the future.
- Donald Trump Jr. now has another top defense lawyer besides Alan Futerfas. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius partner Fred Fielding, a former White House counsel who joined the firm in 2009 after serving as a name partner at what is now Wiley Rein, is assisting the president’s son, according to Axios.
- We wish a speedy recovery to Washington, D.C.-based Kirkland & Ellis litigation partner Michael Jones, who received a gunshot wound in an alleged botched robbery while on vacation in the Caribbean’s Turks and Caicos Islands.
- Happy 25th anniversary on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas.
- And congratulations on your new e-filing abilities, Supreme Court practitioners!
- Ever want to see Buckley Sandler’s Andy Sandler get pied in the face for a legal aid fundraiser? There is video online.
- For your end-of-week leisure reading, don’t miss former Nixon-era FBI and Justice Department leader William Ruckelshaus’ comparison of the Saturday Night Massacre to our current times.