WHAT’S UP AT
Sponsor update: McGuireWoods' Tom Spahn has finished his noted work "The Attorney-Client Privilege and The Work Product Doctrine: A Practitioner's Guide." Get it through Virginia CLE.
Q&A with John Warner
co-Managing Shareholder, DC office
What’s it like sharing a name with a US Senator?
DC telephone operators used to give my number all the time to people trying to call his office. I’ve had his constituents call me to rant on about one thing or another. My assistant has gotten pretty good at screening out those calls but occasionally I get to feel the pulse of the Commonwealth.
Managing partner John Warner in his K Street office this week. Nope, he did not used to be married to actress Elizabeth Taylor.
This is shiny new office space, when did you move in?
We moved one block down K Street in January 2006. We had offices at 1776 K for many years but moved to 1700 K when this building was completed.
Did you outgrow the old?
Yes, anticipated growth was a big reason for the move. We have grown 20% in the past year-and-a-half. We have 60 attorneys and government relations professionals here and about 550 nationally.
In what areas are you growing?
We’ve been building up our government relations group. In May, we added former Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas as a Senior Advisor. With him came Bob Winters, who had been the Chief Tax Counsel, and Alex Brill, who had been the committee's Chief Economist. We also continue to add to our tax, real estate and FDA practices. Those four are the main groups in DC.
How is the firm growing nationally?
We may go to California and Las Vegas and maybe other cities in the Southwest and Midwest. We've also grown through acquisition. Since 2000 we have made three significant ones: Silverstein & Mullens in 2000, a tax boutique here in DC where I was a partner; Burns, Doane, Swecker & Mathis in 2005, an IP firm across the river in Alexandria; and another Pennsylvania-based general practice firm, Klett Rooney Lieber & Schorling, last summer.
Where else does the firm have offices?
The mother ship is in Pittsburgh and, in addition to DC, we are in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, New York, Newark, Princeton, Wilmington, Alexandria, Tampa, Miami, San Diego, Silicon Valley, and Riverside County, CA.
What is the firm best known for?
Corporate finance, financial institutions, and litigation are our major traditional practices. Being a Pittsburgh firm, we have represented PNC Bank for years as well as many of the industrial manufacturers in that part of the world. But with so many attorneys and offices now, we are highly diversified.
How is the firm managed?
We have office heads in each location who handle management and personnel, and each attorney reports through their practice group as well. We have many cross-office and cross-practice teams that serve our clients. Teamwork is a big focus, and our people are rewarded based on their participation in and the success of their teams.
John also has a full load of tax law cases. But, who knows, maybe he’s just calling for a restaurant reservation here.
How much time do you spend on your practice versus firm management?
You mean my day job and my night job? I work full-time as a tax attorney and then add another 20% to manage firm issues.
What kinds of management issues rise to your level?
Staffing, recruiting, office space, associate utilization, and allocating secretarial support. We have a strong firm administrator who takes care of a lot of those issues.
What’s a tax case you are working on now?
I’m representing a group of employees being sued by the IRS. They had been compensated with a form of equity that the IRS is claiming was actually deferred salary compensation. This means the taxes on the gain from the equity component would be at the ordinary income rate rather than the capital gains rate. And that would be a significance difference in tax liability.
How do you get your new attorneys?
We usually do not take on summer associates at this office. Our main practices are in tax and government relations, areas that are tough for a law school student to come into. Our new hires come with experience from other firms, private industry, or the government, particularly the IRS or Treasury in the tax area.
What keeps you up at night?
Quality control is always something you worry about. And retention. We have done well so far with it but there is so much turnover in the industry now, it’s an issue for all firms.
What do you do in your spare time?
I’m from Massachusetts and am a die-hard Red Sox fan. And I’m a student of SABRmetrics and read the Bill James books on baseball statistics. I’ve actually found some of the insights useful in law firm management.