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Law firms in Silicon Valley keep DC lawyers on the go

Law firms in Silicon Valley keep DC lawyers on the go

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe offices in Washington, DC REUTERS / Andrew Kelly

  • Capital moves Fenwick is chasing rapid growth in DC
  • Orrick, Wilson Sonsini, MoFo strengthen DC legislative practice
  • Large tech companies have faced twofold control

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(Reuters) – As the business in Silicon Valley and the policies in Washington, DC become more intertwined, regulatory pressure is pushing for employment from Northern California’s businesses in the capital, whether they’re new or have been there for decades.

Silicon Valley’s Fenwick & West marched into the DC market last month after adding antitrust and trading regulatory partners there from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Dechert and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

A spokesman for the technology-focused firm said this week that it “expects the office to grow rapidly,” with an immediate focus “on hiring to expand the regulatory team.”

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, who this month brought in Washington-based Joe Walker, the former head of Squire Patton Boggs’ function, are also on the hunt for additional DC talent.

“What we’re looking for are innovators,” said Anne Murray, a partner in Orrick’s white collar and the company’s research practices. In addition to reflecting the company’s global focus on the technology, energy, infrastructure and finance sectors, Murray said the DC office is expanding into other “new and evolving” areas such as fintech, cybersecurity and data protection.

In the last two years, the San Francisco-based firm has added 10 affiliates to its Washington office, which was established in 1983. The firm now has about 125 attorneys, the firm said.

Like elsewhere in the capital, its attorneys often help clients founded on the West Coast avert the control or enforcement of DC lawmakers or officials.

Congress and the Department of Justice have targeted tech giants like Facebook and Google under both the Trump and Biden administrations, citing the industry’s rapidly expanding power and influence on everything from users’ data to politics and consumer choices.

“The biggest change or trend in recent years has been the increasing focus on regulatory issues,” said Orrick DC partner John “Jay” Jurata, who heads the firm’s cartel and competition group. Jurata currently represents Microsoft, Sonos and others as interested parties in the Justice Department’s cartel treatment against Google.

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati have been in the metropolitan area for two decades, said DC-based cartel partner Jamillia Ferris. She said the Palo Alto-founded company was first established in Reston, Virginia, and later moved to DC in 2007, when the group expanded to meet the demand for sophisticated regulatory guidance. It now has about 125 lawyers in Washington.

“So starting with the cartel, and then we’ve grown exponentially from there to other areas of practice that our fast-growing tech customers need,” she said. As an early participant in the city, Ferris said Wilson Sonsini has had a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting associates and more high-level legal talent.

Its DC office now has 73 attorneys working on regulatory issues, including cartels, privacy, export controls and healthcare, according to data from the firm. It also has 20 corporate lawyers, 13 litigants and others specializing in technology transactions, life sciences, patents and innovation.

Morrison & Foerster has been in DC even longer, arriving in 1979, and it now has over 140 attorneys there. According to DC managing partner Joseph Palmore, the office moved in January to a new room at 2100 L Street and has since added eight lateral partners.

“We have grown rapidly and it is driven by our clients’ need for sophisticated advice and representation on government-related issues,” Palmore said.

He said more than half of the company’s DC-based partners have previous government experience across federal agencies. Recently, it has focused on growth for its investigations, national security, risk and crisis management and antitrust teams.

“The big technology companies are increasingly being investigated, and they know they need sophisticated representation in Washington,” Palmore said. Given the company’s technology clientele – including companies like Apple and Salesforce, “we have been a natural fit to provide that kind of representation for them, “Palmore said.

As demand grows, competition for both clients and lawyers increases. Fenwick, the capital’s newest Silicon Valley candidate, already has openings for half a dozen DC employees listed on its website.

Read more:

Fenwick launches DC office with Freshfields, Dechert partners

Xiumei Dong

Xiumei Dong covers industry legal news with a focus on the law firm’s strategy and growth, in-house advisor and the legal market in Washington, DC. Reach her at [email protected]

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