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    May 1, 2009  
 

Replacing Souter;
New Washington III

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Justice Souter's reported plans to retire in June have prompted immediate speculation on successors. The chatter includes . . .

 

Seventh Circuit Judge Diane Wood, whom we caught at the ABA's Spring Antitrust gathering one month ago, has an Obama connection—she taught at the University of Chicago alongside the future Prez. The timing could put a wrench in the much-bandied theory that Solicitor General (and former HLS dean) Elena Kagan was being groomed for the next open seat, as she's yet to argue a case at the High Court. Might the President break barriers? Judge Sonia Sotomayor (first Hispanic), Yale Law dean Harold Hongju Koh (first Asian-American), former Stanford Law Dean Kathleen Sullivan (first Sullivan). Is this is another Year of the Woman? Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw (9th Circuit Appeals). Or, a governor? Michigan's Jennifer Granholm, Massachusetts's Deval Patrick.

 

Two years after his '90 appointment by Bush 41, Souter unexpectedly joined with the plurality in the 1992 Casey opinion that declined to overturn Roe and been a surprise leader of the Court's liberal bloc. He famously drives rather than flies back to his native New Hampshire after each term, doesn't have much love for DC, and, to this day, holds out against using a cell phone or email.


New Washington Conference
 

Yesterday morning, 500 professionals in law, real estate, tech, and trade associations packed the Press Club as we hosted the New Washington III, offering help navigating this brave new world. Last time we did this, there was a blizzard, but things have thawed a bit since—with the weather and, just maybe, the economy.

 

Keynoter and former Congressman Tom Davis, now leading Deloitte's Federal Government Services unit, says that despite Obama's tough talk and new regs on lobbying—including the two-year waiting period before senior executive officials may become lobbyists—it's still a "great town for lobbyists" (assuming you're not a Republican). He also says the DC economy is a "fast horse on a muddy track." We're not precisely sure what that means, except that maybe Tom has the Kentucky Derby on the brain.

 

Managing Partners Stuart Pape of Patton Boggs and Maureen Dwyer of Pillsbury gave a run-down on the legal landscape. Stuart says the (scary) question for firms dependent on M&A billables isn't when they'll come back, but whether they're gone for good. It's a hypothesized scenario we've heard from others as well: that legal services models may change in such a way that large-scale transactional work will never again be the profit-maker it once was.

 

Maureen was bullish on both the economy and Pillsbury, quipping "we'll be fine in '09." Being a managing partner seems a bit of a thankless task wherever you do it, but Maureen says she'd rather helm a DC office—where government-driven work such as Pillsbury's nuclear energy practice is strong—than any other city right now.

 

We normally stick to lawyers, but we can't deprive you from seeing the big names on hand (or our super-cool Bisnow banner). Bisnow called on Reznick Group chair Dave Reznick, Business Roundtable president John Castellani; Financial Services Roundtable CEO Steve Bartlett; and Real Estate Roundtable president Mr. Clean, er, Jeff DeBoer. John says his roundtable's 1Q survey reveals that 71% of CEOs expect their employment to decrease over the next six months, but stimulus spending on infrastructure and healthcare provide hope.

 

Everyone's favorite economic forecaster, GMU's Steve Fuller, notes that while DC has lost jobs, total income has stayed nearly constant—a "job churn" fact suggesting the area is adding higher-quality jobs than it's losing. That was one bright spot amidst caution not to expect a recovery to "normal" until 2011-12.


In Memoriam: Mark Levy
 

With great regret, we report that Mark Levy, 59, chair of Kilpatrick Stockton's Supreme Court and appellate practice, died early yesterday morning at his office. The cause was an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, and the Washington Post now reports that Mark was among 24 lawyers being laid off from the firm this week.

We cannot pretend any dispassion over the passing of Mark Levy, who we knew as an exceedingly warm and gentle presence. We considered Mark a friend of the publication, having interviewed him most recently—less than a month ago—for his pro bono efforts on behalf of the American Cancer Society. Earlier this year, he won a unanimous victory in his 16th case before the Supreme Court, the ERISA matter of Kennedy v. DuPont. Patricia Millett of Akin Gump, who worked with Mark when he headed DOJ's civil appellate division, told us that "every time I saw him, he had a big, open smile on his face." He was the kind of person who "would call you out of the blue to see how you were doing," she said, adding that for reasons going far beyond his top-quality work, "this is a loss that everyone in the Supreme Court bar is feeling."

John Ford is Bisnow's Legal Editor; story ideas to john@bisnow.com

 
 
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