- Capital newcomer Fenwick chasing rapid growth in D.C.
- Orrick, Wilson Sonsini, MoFo beef up D.C. regulatory practices
- Big tech companies have faced bipartisan scrutiny
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(Reuters) – As the business of Silicon Valley and the policies of Washington, D.C., become more intertwined, regulatory pressures are driving a hiring push by Northern California firms in the capital, whether they’re new or have been there for decades.
Silicon Valley’s Fenwick & West marched into the D.C. market last month after adding antitrust and trade regulation partners there from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Dechert and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
A spokesperson for the tech-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, which this month brought on Washington-based Joe Walker, the former head of Squire Patton Boggs’ white-collar practice, is also on the hunt for additional D.C. talent.
“What we’re looking for are innovators,” said Anne Murray, a partner in Orrick’s white collar and corporate investigations practice. In addition to mirroring the firm’s global focus on the technology, energy and infrastructure and finance sectors, Murray said the D.C. office is expanding in other “emerging and developing” areas such as fintech, cybersecurity and data privacy.
In the past two years, the San Francisco-founded firm has added 10 lateral partners in its Washington office, which was established in 1983. The office now has about 125 lawyers, the firm said.
Like elsewhere in the capital, its lawyers are frequently helping West Coast-founded clients fend off scrutiny or enforcement actions by D.C. lawmakers or officials.
Congress and the Justice Department have taken aim at tech giants such as Facebook and Google under both the Trump and Biden administrations, citing the industry’s fast-expanding power and influence over everything from users’ data to politics and consumer choice.
“The biggest change or trend of the past years has been the increasing focus on regulatory issues,” said Orrick D.C. partner John “Jay” Jurata, who leads the firm’s antitrust and competition group. Jurata currently represents Microsoft, Sonos, and others as interested parties in Justice Department antitrust litigation against Google.
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati has been in the capital region for two decades, said D.C.-based antitrust partner Jamillia Ferris. She said the Palo Alto-founded firm first set up in Reston, Virginia, and later moved to D.C. in 2007, as the group expanded to meet demand for sophisticated regulatory guidance. It now has about 125 lawyers in Washington.
“So starting with antitrust, and then we’ve grown from there exponentially into other practice areas that our fast-growing tech clients need,” she said. As an early entrant to the city, Ferris said Wilson Sonsini has enjoyed a competitive edge when it comes to attracting associate and more senior-level legal talent.
Its D.C. office now has 73 lawyers working on regulatory matters, including antitrust, privacy, export control and healthcare, according to data provided by the firm. It also has 20 corporate lawyers, 13 litigators, and others specializing in technology transactions, life sciences, patents and innovation.
Morrison & Foerster has been in D.C. even longer, arriving in 1979, and it now has over 140 attorneys there. According to D.C. managing partner Joseph Palmore, the office in January relocated to a new space at 2100 L Street and has since added eight lateral partners.
“We have been growing rapidly, and that’s driven by the needs of our clients for sophisticated advice and representation in government-facing matters,” Palmore said.
He said more than half of the firm’s D.C.-based partners have prior government experience across federal agencies. Recently it has emphasized growth for its investigations, national security, risk and crisis management and antitrust teams.
“The big tech companies are increasingly under scrutiny and they know that they need sophisticated representation in Washington, Palmore said. Given the firm’s tech clientele – including companies such as Apple and Salesforce, “we’ve been a natural fit to provide that kind of representation to them,” Palmore said.
As demand grows, so has competition for both clients and lawyers. Fenwick, the capital’s newest Silicon Valley contender, already has openings for a half-dozen D.C. associates listed on its website.
Xiumei Dong covers legal industry news, with a focus on law firm strategy and growth, in-house counsel and the Washington, D.C., legal market. Reach her at Xiumei.Dong@thomsonreuters.com.