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    December 1, 2008  

Tomorrow's big Bisnow event at the National Press Club: What does 2009 hold for Washington business? Former Homeland Security Sec'y Tom Ridge, Carlyle Group founder David Rubenstein, and Fight Night founder Joe Robert; forecaster Steve Fuller; and other luminaries from the legal, association, tech, and real estate worlds. 715-1015 AM. Last chance to sign up!


Just hours after Bisnow called Jenner & Block managing partner Tom Perrelli in for a roundtable chat on coming trends in the new Washington, he was tapped for a leadership spot on Obama's DOJ transition effort (working with WilmerHale's David Ogden). Either our President-elect is taking his cue from Bisnow editorial choices or he and Tom remain close from their days at Harvard Law and Obama values his experience as Deputy Assistant AG in the Clinton administration. (We're going with the former.)


The table was full of heavy hitters. From left: Tom; Wiley Rein managing partner Dick Wiley; Greg McCavera of Jones Lang LaSalle, expert real estate advisor to law firms; Kevin Fitzgerald, DC managing partner of Troutman Sanders; and Matt Medlin, Managing Director at Huron Consulting. Jones Lang LaSalle and Huron sponsored this blue-ribbon panel, hosted at Matt's 13th Street office. Your Bisnow Legal Editor, John Ford, played moderator.

Bisnow: What practice areas do you expect to pick up as a result of Democratic victories in Congress and the White House?
Dick: There'll be more regulation, which is good for Washington firms. I'm a Republican, but I've always done well in the Democratic years, certainly the Clinton years. The FDA will be a big one. There's a feeling that FDA hasn't been as aggressive as it should be. Antitrust might be back with us. Some people say 'we've had a trust department'; now, they say 'we'll have an antitrust department.'

And what do you look for at the FCC?

Dick: I would say a real focus on high-tech broadband. And more content regulation, though not indecency so much as we've seen during the Republican years, but concerns about whether broadcasters are really serving their local communities.

Dick's firm, a spinoff from Kirkland & Ellis, just celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Bisnow: What about securities regulation?
Tom: The bailout bill is the tip of the iceberg—when Congress shows up in February there'll be a regulatory overhaul in financial services. One would expect a lot of work coming out of that. If you just try to read TARP (the bailout bill) you find many things that lawyers could spend a lot of time on. 

Obama has a full plate, but yes, he'll be focused on financial services and regulation of derivatives and credit swap markets. It'll be interesting to see the agencies buck for who's going to be in charge. That will be something to watch if you like inside-Washington politics. The FDIC, the SEC, the CFTC or somebody else—who's going to get their hands on the regulatory lever?

Bisnow: What do you see coming in your field, energy?
Kevin: Climate change is front and center, but whether they get a cap and trade bill this year or next remains to be seen. The cost to consumers and businesses of implementing something that's not necessarily vetted or understood could be difficult when you're in a down economy.
Bisnow: If not a cap and trade bill, then what?
Kevin: You're likely to see Congress and the President take a hard look at renewable portfolio standards, the so-called federal RPS, which would require some percentage of generation to come from renewable resources. Many states have that in place, but Congress could impose it on all 50, working through 10th Amendment issues. 
Bisnow: Any immediate changes at the agencies where you practice ?     
Kevin: An interesting question is whether the president appoints an energy modernization czar who would reach across FERC, Interior, and State, because soon we're going to have to negotiate over Kyoto and its progeny. 
Dick: Same thing in our field. Obama may put a chief technology officer in the White House to push broadband and other new technologies.

Huron covers the waterfront on litigation support, while Matt and his team (including a former Freddie Mac accounting policy group head) specialize in financial investigations and accounting valuation questions. Of legal work arising from the economic crisis, he says "this rat will be working its way through the snake for a long time." Thankfully, that was after we'd finished lunch.


How do you get work in areas with new legislative or regulatory activity?

Tom: You see a lot of firms announcing task forces or new practice groups, which in some respects are marketing devices. But every firm, certainly ours, has spent time thinking about positioning themselves. There are threshold questions—can you sue banks, do you defend banks, those kinds of questions. We're a firm that actually can sue banks. In the insurance area, we tend to sue insurers, not represent insurers.
Tom: It's hard to change your spots on a dime, even if there is a big opportunity.  But you make it known to the public what opportunities you can pursue, and you can expand from there.
Dick: Last summer, we started thinking about the hot areas in the new administration, whether it'd be Obama or McCain. We had practice group leaders meet and then had a retreat in the fall so we'd have a game plan that fits our strengths. We're not going to be in the financial areas, but we're strong in some of the climate change issues and regulatory issues.
Kevin: Back in March, looking down the pike, we formed a team called the credit crisis and government intervention task force. It includes bankruptcy, financial services folks, folks who represent banks, our bank regulatory group, tax, and M&A. The idea being that clients would want one place where you can deal with all those things. That group has been going very well.


We snapped this last night of Arent Fox chairman Marc Fleischaker and wife Phyllis.  Showing the irresistible nostalgia overcoming friend and foe alike after seeing the play Frost Nixon, Marc flashed the Nixon victory sign (unless Marc was even more intellectual than we realize and was thinking back to Churchill, or less intellectual and thinking of USC). For the record, Marc and Phyllis are much too young to remember Nixon (although it is true Marc started at Arent Fox in 1971). 

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

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