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    July 11, 2008  

Jenner & Block;
Mayer Brown;
Innocence Project; Windstream


Jenner & Block is a a pioneer when it comes to office moves. One of the first firms in DuPont Circle, it moved to Metro Center in '91, well ahead of the wave that followed. A month ago Jenner unpacked at 1099 New York Ave., and the area around the vacant old convention center site feels like a happenin' place with Dewey  LeBoeuf in another new building across the street, the Washington Kastle's pro tennis mini-stadium out the widow, and plans for an 1,100 room luxury hotel from Marriott. We stopped in for a housewarming with managing partner Tom Perrelli.


Every inch of the lobby is minimalist gleaming white except for the giant Matthew Ritchey backlit art showpiece. A few lawyers have rhapsodized to Tom: "It speaks to me." Jenner considered staying at 601 13th, but the lure of developer Tishman Speyer's trophy building, by famed NY architect Tom Phifer, won out. Key factors were a dedicated floor of conference rooms (too small and spread out at Jenner's Metro Center office) and upgraded electronic and A/V systems. Many of the new conference rooms have sliding privacy screens and dual 65-inch plasmas with touch-screen controls, which beats Tom's old system: "wheeling in a cart with a TV on it."


Jenner's 80 attorneys are now on six floors as opposed to two, so having a central staircase to encourage interaction was "wildly important," says Tom. So important they went ahead with it despite being the single biggest cost of the buildout. And speaking of interaction, the building also comes with expansive rooftop terrace (views of the Capitol and Washington Monument during parties) and state-of-the-art fitness center where colleagues can continue working with each other (unless they're in happy oblivion with all the headphones and flat screens).


Another crucial element: Stella Escobar, resident barista at "Caf? Jenner." Jenner-ites got hooked on Stella's artistry at her G & 12th Street coffee shop, Sip of Seattle, so Tom approached her about moonlighting (daylighting?). When she remembered his name and drink order, the deal was sealed. Our own perk: her Chai Tea.



Last summer, Mayer Brown partners like Dan Brown set out to turn economic lemons into lemonade by starting a Subprime Lending Response team, a collection of attorneys from different practice areas. Now that waves are crashing  beyond housing, they've re-branded more dramatically as the Credit Market Distress Team. The group of 75 lawyers (15 in DC) responds to state and federal investigations, class actions, and shareholder suits. In June they started a monthly teleconference on hot topics; the first drew 130 registrants, and Dan co-led the second call this week on "credit default swaps." You can also call Dan for lessons on the mandolin.  Well, give him a few months—he just started learning in December.

Young Lawyers  Beyond the Firms


Our 30 Under 30 list (continuing Monday) is highlighting law firm talent, but let's not ignore young stars at corporations and non-profits. Two examples: Shawn Armbrust, 30, Executive Director of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (above), and Jennie Chandra, 29, of Windstream. We can't think of much legal work more important than Shawn's: securing the release of innocently convicted prisoners. A Northwestern undergrad, she worked on a Medill School of Journalism investigation of a capital case, leading to release of death row inmate Anthony Porter. Then after time with a commission appointed by former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, who eventually commuted all Illinois death sentences, Shawn became a Public Interest Law Scholar at Georgetown. With Virginia now conducting DNA testing on 1,000 old cases—the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project is heavily involved—she won't be lacking for work.


Jennie Chandra is Director of Federal Gov't Affairs at Windstream, which does $3 billion annually providing land line voice, broadband, and video through Dish Network. Packing a B.A., M.S., and J.D. all from Stanford (yawn), Jennie detoured from her plan to go the law firm route when she accepted an appointment by California's Governator to work on telecom policy with the California Public Utilities Commission. Now she's representing Windstream before the FCC. Oh, and enjoying her status as a new mom.

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