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    December 3, 2008  
 
 
The New
Washington?

Bisnow and award-winning director Karim Chrobog invite readers to or a holiday happy hour TONIGHT at new club Midtown, 1219 Connecticut Ave. Sign up for free! (Karim's award-winning documentary Warchild will be playing Dec 5-11 downtown. Click here to learn more about the movie.)

 

Yesterday morning, 550 business execs from the legal, tech, trade association, and real estate worlds gathered at our Bisnow "New Washington" conference for a little crystal ball gazing, to divine what '09 holds for Washington business. The theory behind our event is that the confluence of so many new crises and policy priorities, coupled with the advent of activist government, means a new era of power and influence for the Nation's capital. Thanks to sponsors Patton Boggs, Deloitte, and Qorvis Communications for not only sponsoring, but helping illuminate the future.

 

We run this picture to show the mood was not entirely somber as our headline panelists talked about the daunting economy: Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, now of Ridge Global LLC, flanked by legendary real estate investor (and Fight Night founder) Joe Robert, and Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein. Joe likened the economy to the Mission Impossible scene where Tom Cruise slides down a skyscraper and the audience is in suspense not knowing when or how he will stop, or if he will somehow be saved. At least David offered good news for JDs, saying lawyers and lobbyists will emerge as big winners, helping clients grab slices of trillion dollar pies.

 

Patton Boggs MP Stuart Pape gave the legal perspective, noting there's not a firm in town that's not having conversations with clients about the size of retainers for the new year. While expense cutting is appropriately in vogue, he added that "you can't save your way to prosperity."

 

Washington legal legend Bill Coleman (88 years young by our calculation), Secretary of Transportation in the Ford Administration, co-author of the Brown v. Board of Education brief in 1954, and the first African-American to serve on the Harvard Law Review (long before a certain President-elect even), poses a question, too sophisticated for us to recount.

 

Vornado Charles E. Smith president Mitchell Schear (largest owner and manager of office property in the region), National Federation of Independent Business CEO Todd Stottlemyer, and Cardinal Bank of Washington president Kate Carr. Kate, a veteran of many cycles, said she knows recovery is just a matter of time and pointed out that even now her bank is gladly lending. Todd said the economy means for trade associations that their "value proposition has to be very clear." 

 

McGuireWoods' Jim Dyke, who, despite the fact we named him a Washington Visionary this summer, evidently thought he could benefit from others' crystal balls yesterday. He reminded us that he worked in the Carter White House with panelist Rubenstein: Jim was Walter Mondale's domestic policy advisor. (Note to younger readers: Mondale was the Joe Biden of his time.) Jim told us if you wanted to get something in front of Carter, you gave it to David—he arrived so early in the morning you knew his items would land first on the Oval Office desk.

 

Gov. Ridge with Gary Tabach, managing partner of Deloitte, where Tom's also a senior advisor these days, so they're no strangers. Drawing on his DHS experience, Tom urged procurement reform to avoid habitual cost overruns on defense spending (according to a GAO study he cited, weapons projects are coming in at an average of 26% over budget and about two years late). He's bullish on the future, telling the crowd that if we take the attitude that this crisis is too much for us, we'll "sound like Europe." 

 

Group Goetz Architects general counsel Tom Hart, right, doing a little networking with John Niehoff, who heads the law firm practice at accountant Beers + Cutler. John tells us that uncertainty about the economic picture and the amount of work coming down the pike is making '09 revenue projections unusually tricky for law firms.

John Ford, Bisnow's Legal Editor, relies exclusively on tarot cards for his prognostications. Send him your story tips and visions of the future at john@bisnow.com.

 
 
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