Preston Gates of Seattle came together with Kirkpatrick Lockhart of Pittsburgh on January 1, bringing with them 22 different offices on three continents. They don't really have a headquarters office now. But where do you think they have their biggest overlap?
Washington, DC, of course. The combined firm is 1400 attorneys, 950 from K&L and 450 from Preston. Of these, 220 are in Washington. The only other geography in common is San Francisco, with 65 attorneys.
The dating started last summer; many were openly getting to know each other during the fall; then last month came a nearly unanimous partnership vote for marriage.
What was the attraction? DC Administrative Partner Chuck Miller, formerly of K&L, says his firm was very strong in the east and in London, and Preston was symmetrically strong along the west coast and in China. Industry-wise, he says, the firm had similar strengths in corporate, litigation, and intellectual property. But Preston was stronger in public policy, anti-trust, and energy, and K&L in financial services.
Physically in DC, Preston will be moving into 1601 K Street, where there are two happy coincidences. First, KL took the space a year ago and had options on lots of extra space. And Preston's lease was running out this year anyway. They'll be retrofitting and moving in by May.
K & L may have been twice the size, but do you notice that only one full name remains in the firm? Not Kirkpatrick, Lockhart, or Preston. But the name of Bill Gates, Sr., who came from the smaller firm. "It's an iconic and well-known name for the 21st Century," says Miller.
Meanwhile, they're doing lots of meetings and happy hours here, trying to learn names and merge cultures. They did a recent retreat on the Baltimore Waterfront, otherwise they have some very large conference rooms.
The big opportunity is cross-marketing. Miller, a mutual fund specialist, cites an example: "Preston brings a large public policy group, and we want to make sure our financial services clients understand the benefit of having it to use in front of agencies and Congress."
Miller, originally from Savannah, Ga., by way of Harvard, Penn law school, and a 1987 clerkship with Chief Justice Rehnquist, has been with K & L for 12 years. He's in the second year of his second four-year term as head of the office, and will be assisted by deputy administrative partner Jonathan Blank, who comes over from Preston.
Miller says the Washington office hopes to continue growing at a clip of 8 to 10 new lawyers a year, and could have space issues three to four years down the road. Elsewhere, he says, the firm believes that there may be strategic opportunities in Chicago and Altanta, and a beefing up of Europe, where they just opened an office in Berlin.
In the meantime, they have to change logos on stationery, coffee cups, and umbrellas.
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