January 9, 2015

"Non-Traditional Competitors"
One of Several Threats to Firms

Today, Georgetown University Law Center released its 2015 Report on the State of the Legal Market, with Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor. We put down Wild to pick up this other exciting read.

The report found that the law firm market is drastically changing in ways that became evident around '08. For instance, "non-traditional competitors" to law firms, changes in clients' buying habits and a shift to a buyers' market, and increased distance between the most high-performing firms and the rest. Many law firms, the report says, have been slow to respond. On the bright side, the report found that revenue growth was stronger in 2014 than in 2013. Financial performance, by many measures, was also somewhat better for law firms in 2014.

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Remodeling Squire Patton Boggs

Before Squire Sanders and Patton Boggs merged in June 2014, Patton Boggs had signed a 17-year lease extension and started renovating its longtime space at 2550 M. Now, that remodel includes integrating all of the Squire Sanders folks; the combined office will be around 225 lawyers. Currently, lawyers are split between Squire Sanders' old space on 19th Street and Patton Boggs' 2550 M office, which had another wave from 19th Street move in last week. We talked to DC managing partners Michael Nardotti (from legacy Patton Boggs) and John Burlingame (legacy Squire Sanders), about the firm's integration.

Mike, a retired Major General who spent 28 years with the military, has been overseeing the renovation. (We snapped him with a picture of West Point from the year he entered, 1965.) He tells us the office has renovated the floors, added more glass and natural light, switched to automated lighting, made heating and cooling systems more efficient, and increased office count by adding glass-fronted internal offices. The government investigations partner says this combination is great for associates and young partners who want to help establish the firm's direction for the future. 

John tells us Squire Sanders is working to sublet its entire 1200 19th St office space, and should be moved out within the next few months. He and Mike are sharing management on personnel and administrative issues (eg, accounting systems and compensation), and John has a busy litigation practice. Meanwhile, he says, the combined firm is using Patton Boggs' presence in DC and public policy and exporting it onto the legacy Squire Sanders international platform. 

While the renovation goes on, lawyers are also traveling the globe: FCPA investigations in the Middle East, international dispute resolution in Croatia, a monitorship for a company with FCPA issues located in 128 countries, and deal work in the Middle East and London. There have been around 60 combined efforts. For instance, expanding the scope of Squire Sanders' IDR practice through Patton Boggs' policy contacts, merging the legacy firms' energy transactional and energy policy work, and expanding into public policy work and FDA work for legacy Squire Sanders clients.

In the recently finished lobby, we ran into former Sen. Trent Lott, who heads the renowned public policy practice with former Sen. John Breaux. The two senators always host post-election debriefings. The most recent was planned to be held in the lobby, which, several days beforehand, hadn't quite been finished. When Mike was asked about a backup, he answered--with a hint of his military roots--that Plan B was to make Plan A work. And it did. 

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Inside Thomas Boggs' Office

Washington power broker Thomas Hale Boggs Jr. died in September. Since then, his office at Squire Patton Boggs, where he was chairman emeritus, has been locked and left mostly untouched. The firm gave us a look inside the space where one of Washington's most influential lobbyists and lawyers spent his days. Above, his office, with the desk at right. DC managing partner Mike Nardotti, who's been with the firm for 18 years, says "it is impossible to fairly capture the impact of this loss."

Behind the desk is a Rolodex packed with powerful friends and connections. Boggs joined the then four-member firm not long after graduating from Georgetown Law in 1965. Under him, Patton Boggs advised a varied list of clients, such as Mars, MCI, Chrysler (including negotiating $1.5B in federal loan guarantees in '79), Amazon, Airbus, Citigroup and Wake Forest.

Through the arched doorway is a larger office where Boggs conversed with fellow Washington heavyweights. He kept his trademark Havana cigars in the humidor visible at back left. We snapped Mike looking over the room's panoramic view of Georgetown. Boggs was a man respected and admired by many, and Mike says to have been on the same team is something they're all very proud of. "Tom's name is still on the door of this firm, and to truly honor him, the folks here want to make sure this combination [with Squire Sanders] is the success he hoped it would be." 

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