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    June 12, 2008  


One of the great new condominiums of the region has opened its doors: Lionsgate, in the heart of Bethesda. We believe it will become a well-known landmark of luxury and convenience. See their ad to right, and tell 'em we sent you!


This is part two of our Smith & Wollensky roundtable, and there would be a part three but we fell asleep early after such a great meal. Big thanks to participants Scott Bolden, DC Managing Partner, Reed Smith; Bobby Burchfield, DC Co-Partner-in-Charge, McDermott Will & Emery; Laurin Mills, DC Managing Partner, Nixon Peabody; and terrific sponsors: Phil Leibow, Global Head of Law Firm Practice, Jones Lang LaSalle, and John Niehoff, Head of Legal Practice, Beers + Cutler.


Scott's just one month into his new role as Reed Smith's DC managing partner; as for John, we were impressed to learn he played point guard for George Mason hoops back in the day.

Bisnow: After eight plentiful years of regulatory work for law firms under a GOP administration, have we reached the point where it doesn't matter who's elected in the fall: It will keep on coming?
Scott: From a business perspective, the two candidates aren't the same; however, because the Democratic nominee has just been determined, it's difficult to predict what the specific differences will be. I'm confident that no matter what the candidates' positions are, they will have less of a regulatory impact than the winner's appointments.
Bobby: There's a sense in the business community that if we have a Democratic White House and strong Democratic majorities in the Congress, we're probably looking at a much different regulatory climate. If Obama wins, the key will be how close the Democrats get to a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. That would open up a lot of avenues for new regulation. 
Mark: Specific issues you're thinking of?
Bobby: Certainly healthcare. You could anticipate a lot of activity in that area. The Bush tax cuts expire in 2010, so Congress is going to have to act on an array of tax initiatives. That affects government relations practices and also has consequences for business as tax changes go into effect. 

Scott holds John and Laurin rapt with his commentary on Smith & Wollensky's tomato and onion salad.

Bisnow: I assume many of your lawyers know the presidential candidates. You must be thinking ahead about what you can offer from your government affairs practices?
Laurin: Yes, but I think you can over-plan this kind of thing. Healthcare is probably going to change no matter who gets in, though I don't have the slightest idea which way. Beyond that one thing, there's just so much momentum for the existing regulatory regime. And even if they pass something in 2009, it takes a couple years before it has impact. It gives you a long time to ramp up
Bisnow: Since we have Jones Lang LaSalle here, how does real estate play into your growth plans?

It's not an afterthought but it doesn't drive our thinking. When you add a few new people, that's not a big deal. You find a way. The big change is if there's a merger. That's what really drives your real estate.

Phil: That's what I've seen. It's hard to plan for the acquisition of 50 lawyers when you have 150-200. You don't have expansion space for that, so then it's:  What do we do, when's our expiration, what can we negotiate, how can we make these two firms go together? Most firms now are not in the business of warehousing space. 

Bobby represented Rudy Giuliani's '08 presidential campaign, and was the lead lawyer for the Bush team in Miami during the Florida recount. (Bobby says HBO wanted to portray him in their re-telling of the election drama, but Brad Pitt was unavailable.) Here we asked Bobby and Phil to close their eyes and imagine Congress getting rid of pork spending. 


Will firms ever move away from downtown?

Scott: I think they're still wary of moving into areas not considered to be within the  CBD, like east of Penn Quarter or north to NoMa. Will that continue forever? I don't know. In the long-term, packing up and moving further east may be their only option. So, I'd never say never.

Think about a law firm being on 7th and E ten years ago. It was unheard of.


You're exactly right.


When we moved to 1301 K, I'll be honest with you, that was an interesting change of environment for me. At the time, 13th and K was only a year or two removed from the DC council's effort to eradicate prostitution and related crime from the neighborhood. Some of us grumbled for a while about not having the same level of services and retail amenities we had enjoyed at 18th and M. But as the new area developed, we gained comfort with it.


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McGuire Woods
DC United
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