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    January 9, 2008  


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The D.C. office of Perkins Coie has the hottest client in town (well, at least until last night)-Barack Obama, who uses the political law practice at Perkins to help him stay on the right side of campaign finance regulations.? Other political clients include the Democratic Congressional and Senate campaign committees, ex-'08 candidate Chris Dodd, and '04 nominee John Kerry.? The firm has 650 attorneys and the DC office about 40.? In a landslide vote, Bisnow's editorial team decided to interview John Devaney, Perkins Coie's managing partner here.


Every firm boasts a collegial atmosphere, but Perkins Coie has some goods to back it up:? they've been cited as one of Fortune's top 100 places to work five years running.? And they've even got hip partners-John is a big music fan who keeps his MP3 player stocked with the likes of Wilco, Steve Earle, and Billy Bragg (cool stuff, trust us).


You have a two-track compensation system?
Yes.? Associates who commit to billing 1,950 hours get a salary that's competitive with the highest in town.? But associates can also opt into a lower minimum billable requirement and get paid a little less.? We think it's been a good way to retain strong associates who prefer lower hour expectations over a higher salary.

When did you adopt this system?
It was born out of the salary increases in the late 90s.? It's been in place for a few years now.

What if an associate opts for fewer hours, but has a busy year?
We make that up with bonuses.? No matter which track you've chosen, if you have a very productive year, your income will be close to what the larger D.C. firms pay.

Are associates worried about a stigma if they opt for fewer hours?
There really isn't any stigma or class system.? The thing we value most is quality lawyering.? Attorneys need to be economically viable, but if you're doing a good job, you're going to get good work.? In general, partners don't even know which track associates have chosen, and it's not a factor in associate evaluations or partnership consideration.


John is a litigator with an expertise in telecom. ?His sons Michael and Matthew both played on baseball teams from Northwest, D.C. that qualified for the? Eastern Regionals ?of the Little League World Series.? The path of both teams ended in Bristol, Connecticut, just shy of an appearance in Williamsburg.? (Full disclosure:? Bisnow Associate Publisher Elliott Bisnow played on one of those teams.? We won't comment on his play because we'd like to keep our jobs.)


Is Seattle still your largest office?
Yes, we have 250 or so there, but we're a national firm with 13 offices around the country.? We also have a small office in Shanghai.

What are the strongest practices in D.C.?
Government contracts, political law, litigation, and environmental and natural resources law.? We're also strong in I.P. work, including both patent litigation and prosecution.? We added Michael Oblon about two years ago, and he's done a great job growing the I.P. practice.? Michael Sussmann also joined us about two years ago from DOJ's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and has a cutting-edge practice in privacy and security.????

What is the firm's management structure?
We've got a 12-lawyer Executive Committee, which functions like a board of directors, and a Management Committee of four.? Bob Bauer, the head of our political law group in D.C., is the Chair of the Executive Committee.

So . . . which compensation option would you have chosen as an associate?
Well, when my kids were little I might have gone with the lower track.? But when tuition bills started coming, I'd have been getting as much as I could.? Okay, that sounds like a diplomatic answer-but it's true!

McGuire Woods
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