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Bisnow on Business

Land America



Quick questions for Tom Perrelli, Managing Partner, DC office

What's the latest here?

We’re about to go on a growth spurt.


How so?

We’ve been fairly stable for the last 7-8 years at 55 to 65 attorneys. We’re fantastically busy. So we’ve got 18 new associates coming in the fall, and are actively looking for laterals. One just started this week, from A&P, in copyright and new media. We’re very close on two other laterals, and have two or three others we’re looking at seriously, with some timing issues. 


Tom Perrelli in his office yesterday at 601 13th St.


What fields are you looking at?

We’d like to build up our public policy practice. We’d like to do more on antitrust, returning to our roots from representing MCI during the Bell breakup. And securities and white collar.


Do you have a 3 or 5 year plan?

In the past, not now. But we’ve identified goals.


On a piece of paper?

In my head. It drives everyone crazy. But we are a very democratic firm. 


Are you looking to acquire a firm, or small practices, or individuals?

Small practices have been the most successful, but we’re open.


How about individuals from government—and how do you know if they’ll work out?

We have a rich history of laterals from government. If they come in the middle of the year, we make them a stipend partner, then the next year they’re considered as an equity partner. We give them marketing resources and a set of expectations. I came from DoJ myself.


Why did you come here?

I wanted a place that would give me space to build my own practice. Some firms I talked to knew exactly what they’d do with me—and that was something I didn’t want.


Tom points to where his new office will be this time next year.

How did you build your practice?

One thing I did was pick about five areas I’d become an expert on in government, such health care/HCFA, copyright, and some esoteric regulatory regimes. Another thing I did was identify issues that are novel and go to companies that might be affected. I would say: Let me do some work for you, for little or nothing. If they liked what they saw, they’d talk to us further. There are many good approaches, but I like that one because it feels more merit-based, and it appeals to the student in me, learning new issues. 


What’s an example?

Napster. I thought, this digital copyright stuff is going to be a big problem for media companies. I looked at litigation in which they were involved, and did a critique of whether they were well served or how else they might have argued their case. 


Did it yield results?

Yes, we now have a thriving entertainment and new media practice, clients like Universal Music, Warner Music, the Viacom YouTube case. Steve Fabrizio and I co-chair the practice.


You’re getting new offices?

We’re moving June 1 of next year to 1099 New York Avenue. We’ll be on floors 6 to 11, although they have small floor plates. But we have expansion options and could theoretically take the whole building over time if we needed it.


How much of your time do you spend on practice vs. management?

110% on trials, 50% on management! We have a 14-member management committee that meets every couple weeks, and the 35 partners here meet every two weeks as well.


How do you do it all?

Get a fantastic director of administration.


What’s a case you’re working on now?

Litigation against XM and Sirius for SoundExchange, a collective of record companies and recording artists, before the Copyright Royalty Board with trial starting up again on August 15th.


What rises to your level in management issues?

I have a low threshold because I like to know what’s going on. I’m one of the longest tenured people in the office. I was a summer associate in 1990 and have a lot of long term relationships, so things bubble up to me.


Tom looks rested, but he has a 7 month old.

How big is the firm now?

470 lawyers with offices in Chicago, New York, Dallas, and here.


What’s different about your firm?

Our culture.


Everyone says that. What does that mean?

We have a “no screamers” policy. And we are truly committed to pro bono, often ranked at or near the top in national lists.


Where are you from?

Annandale. My father was career DoJ, but not a lawyer.


Anything offbeat you do in your spare time?

Not with a 7 month old baby! My last witness at a trial in November finished testifying at 2 PM, and my wife went into labor at 2:30. She is a wonderful woman!


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