K Street firm bucks trend, raises revenue

Last year was a tough one for K Street, with many of the largest firms experiencing either lower lobbying revenues or slower growth compared to recent years, but one company bucked the trend by considerably boosting its receipts: Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.

The Denver-based law firm, known as Brownstein Hyatt & Farber until the finalization of its merger with the Las Vegas-based legal practice Schreck & Brignone this year, brought in $11.2 million in lobbying revenue in 2006, a remarkable 64.7 percent increase from 2005.

This growth propelled Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck into the elite ranks of firms with annual lobbying revenues higher than $10 million, a group that includes only about 25 lobbying shops.

The firm’s lobbying revenues have climbed more than 400 percent since Brownstein Hyatt & Farber accrued $2.2 million in 2000, according to figures from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Alfred Mottur, who was named managing partner of the Washington office in 2003 after three years at the firm, said that Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck’s 2006 performance was no surprise to them. Despite the firm’s extraordinary growth during a bad year for the lobbying industry, Mottur indicated that they view the progress as the result of planning and execution of their business strategy.

“We’ve sort of reached critical mass,” said Mottur, who came to Brownstein Hyatt & Farber from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld after a stint as senior counsel to then-Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.).

Mottur said the growth was the product of cultivating ongoing relationships with clients along with an aggressive push to expand into new lines of business by hiring lobbyists with expertise and connections.

Brownstein Hyatt & Farber maintained a successful practice in areas such as telecommunications, media and appropriations, Mottur said, but has been intent on branching out while continuing to grow its ongoing lines of business. More than half of the firm’s existing clients have increased their retainers in the past several years, Mottur said.

“We’re always adding new areas,” Mottur said. The firm’s roster of principle lobbyists has doubled to 14 over the last three to four years while its stable of clients has grown from 34 to 51 since the beginning of 2004. Mottur cited the firm’s signings of Johnson & Johnson and U.S. Airways last year as illustrations of its entry into new sectors.

Among the lobbyists who have joined Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck’s lobbying practice since 2005, Mottur cited two who have had a significant impact.

Makan Delrahim joined the firm in the summer of 2005 from the Justice Department, where he was a deputy assistant attorney general in its antitrust division. Delrahim previously served as staff director and chief counsel to then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Prior to joining Hatch’s staff, Delrahim worked for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the National Institutes of Health, as well as Patton Boggs.

Delrahim’s presence has enabled Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck to tap into the lucrative practice of lobbying on intellectual property, antitrust, competition and high-technology areas, Mottur said. The firm has since hired some of Delrahim’s former associates.

The firm bolstered its presence in the energy sector by bringing aboard Kyle Simpson early last year. Simpson left the lobbying shop he founded in 1998, Morgan Meguire, to join Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. Simpson held senior positions in the Department of Energy during the Clinton administration and has private-sector experience with energy companies.

Another vital component to Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck’s plans to expand its energy business was the relocation of Bruce Thompson from the firm’s Denver headquarters to its D.C. office. In addition to working for private energy companies, Thompson served as chief of staff to then-Rep. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who is now the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Although Mottur highlighted these personnel changes, he emphasized that the firm does not view its 2006 growth as purely the product of the hiring of additional lobbyists. Mottur estimated that even without the new lobbyists, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck’s lobbying revenues last year would have reached approximately $8 million.

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck also is employing a common business strategy for law firm-based lobbying practices in Washington by leveraging its government-relations services to attract clients for its legal services, and vice versa.

To that end, the firm announced last week that it has hired Alexander Dahl and James Flood as litigators attached to its D.C.-based lobbying practice. The two former federal prosecutors both have Senate Judiciary Committee experience: Dahl for Hatch and Flood for Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

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