Managing Principal Steve Nelson spoke to the Washington Post on the recent flood of law firms to DC.
By Catherine Ho | February 12, 2012
Large, small, global and regional — law firms are opening Washington offices at a rate not seen since before the recession, as they position themselves for work centered around the capital’s regulatory machinery.
In the past 10 months, at least seven firms opened D.C. offices: Becker & Poliakoff, Mitchell Williams, Fredericks Peebles & Morgan, Allen & Overy, Sedgwick, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Bass Berry & Sims. Another firm, Miles & Stockbridge, is slated to open its K Street office Wednesday.
The firms range dramatically in size and scope, but many have one thing in common: they view Washington as a critical base to grow regulatory and international practices centered around Congress and Washington-based agencies, such as the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, which hears cases between foreign governments, and the International Trade Commission.
A Washington office “can make clients feel like they have people at the center of the regulatory universe,” said Jeffrey Lowe, managing partner of the D.C. office of legal staffing firm Major, Lindsey & Africa. “There’s a prestige factor there.”
The District has long been home to the nation’s largest regulatory practices, if for no other reason than the fact that government decisions can make or break industries. The fate of a merger, new drug or telecommunications policy can turn on a federal rule. Some of the firms locating here now are establishing practice teams around financial and health-care reforms.
“There was a time when there was very little activity because firms were just not investing when the economy was totally uncertain,” said Steve Nelson, managing principal for the law and government affairs groups at the McCormick Group, an Arlington-based executive search firm. “You saw that in 2008, 2009 and even 2010. But now I think leadership of firms have a good idea of the economic trends that affect them, and they’re seeing that D.C. is important because of some of the regulatory and government issues