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    January 23, 2008  

Squire Sanders
Opens Lobbying Shop

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Before the end of the month, the third floor of 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. will become the home for a new creation:? Squire Sanders Public Advocacy, LLC.? Joe Markoski, Managing Partner of the parent firm's DC and Tysons offices, oversaw the formation of the group last year and is now handing the keys over to?its five D.C.-based professional lobbyists.


Joe knows all about smoke-filled rooms-currently head of the firm's telecom group, he?spent nearly 20 years educating politicians on the long-gestating 1996 Telecom Act. (Note to Fire Marshal: Joe, a cigar aficionado, kept this one-a Monte Cristo No. 3-unlit during our interview.)?


In 2007, Squire Sanders wooed three lobbyists from Venable for its public advocacy affiliate-James George Jatras, Patrick O'Donnell, and James Pitts-and late last year, added heavyweight pol Rob Portman, a former congressman, OMB director, and US Trade Rep, who joins his one-time House colleague Louis Stokes. A big reason for Squire Sanders going the LLC route with its lobbying practice was to attract non-lawyers like Portman's OMB deputy Robert Lehman.

"One of the great fallacies is that non-lawyers can really advance at a law firm," Joe says in explaining the choice to create a distinct corporate entity. He also notes that the retainer model for lobbying services doesn't make a neat fit with a billable-hour structure, and that the firm wants its lobbying arm to be nimble in making personnel decisions. To Joe, it was worth the trouble despite the slightly cumbersome bar rules. The LLC now represents clients such as the National Parks Conservation Association, the government of the Philippines, and Motor Coach Industries. ?


In the 90s, Joe moved his family to London and ran the firm's European operations for five years. Prague and Bratislava (both of which have Squire Sanders offices) were two of his favorite cities. Stateside, Joe's partial to Sebago Lake in Maine, where he and his wife have a house on an island. Joe says he gets all presidential and relaxes by "doing things like moving rocks and clearing brush."


Squire Sanders-with 850 lawyers in 30 offices-has public advocacy practices already in place at the state level, with a team of six each in Florida and Ohio. The ability to work across a number of capitals on state-regulated issues is something that Joe says sets its lobby practice apart. Partner Lee Covington, for instance, is a former Director of the Ohio Department of Insurance, who travels among state capitals. When more manpower is needed in DC, the firm has arrangements to draw on the services of two other lobbying groups who are moving onto the same floor. And we thought lawyers took up all the space in Washington.

Gilbert Randolph
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