Law firm’s collapse leaves lobbying clients up for grabs

The unraveling of legal giant Dewey & LeBoeuf could leave a small but lucrative lobbying practice up for grabs on K Street.

One of the firm’s lobbying clients, the insurance company Aflac, told The Hill that it would follow its Dewey lobbyists wherever they go. Other clients, as well as other lobbyists who are still at the firm, said they plan to leave Dewey in the near future and take their business with them.

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David Pringle, Aflac’s senior vice president of federal relations, said he has been in touch with the lobbyists at the firm who have worked for the company.

“We have been pretty much in daily contact with our folks over there,” Pringle said. “Quite frankly, it’s sad to see to an old established firm like Dewey hit on hard times.”

Alfac paid $270,000 in lobbying fees to Dewey last quarter, according to lobbying disclosure records. Aflac’s Dewey lobbyists in the last quarter were Alan Wolff, a former deputy U.S. trade representative and chairman of the board for the National Foreign Trade Council, and Tom Howell, of counsel to Dewey.

Pringle said Dewey has been representing Aflac on international trade issues for several years.

“We plan to continue that relationship with the people who have been representing us there. That’s really our plan going forward,” Pringle said. “We don’t know where they are going to end up, but we plan to stick with them.”

Dewey looks to be on its last legs following a slump in revenue and an exodus of employees. Press reports of layoffs at the firm are rampant.

Dewey’s lobbying practice is not among the biggest on K Street, but it has several prized blue-chip clients. Along with Aflac, the firm was registered to lobby last quarter for close to a dozen clients, including Lloyd’s of London, the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), Fidelity National Financial and the International Underwriting Association.

Dewey’s lobbying practice earned $650,000 in lobbying fees last quarter, according to lobbying disclosure records. Though the firm was registered to lobby for 11 clients for 2012’s first quarter, it reported no lobbying activity for five of those clients.

The bulk of the firm’s lobbying revenue last quarter came from Lloyd’s of London. The British insurance company paid Dewey $340,000 in lobbying fees in the first quarter.

For 2011 overall, Dewey earned more than $2.4 million in lobbying fees, a 14 percent drop from 2010, when it earned close to $2.8 million.

Lobbyists at the firm have said they are in the process of relocating. Wolff, who is of counsel at Dewey, said he expected to make an announcement about his future very soon.

“We are relocating our practice. I’m not ready to make an announcement, but it’s in process,” Wolff said. “We were never looking to have the practice anywhere else other than Dewey, but since Dewey is no longer viable for our practice, we will have to relocate.”

Wolff plans to continue working for several of his Dewey clients, and noted he has built relationships with them over the years.

“For example, the Semiconductor Industry Association has been a client since 1980. I have grown up with them. … We have a very strong relationship with Aflac as well,” Wolff said. “We will do everything we can to serve the interests of our clients on a continuing basis.”

In a statement, Brian Toohey, SIA’s president, said Wolff and Clark McFadden, a partner at Dewey, have been “invaluable counsels” for the trade group.

“The Dewey law firm has been a trusted partner to SIA for many years. Alan Wolff and Clark McFadden, specifically, have been invaluable counsels for SIA on trade and export-control issues, as well as association management. We hope to continue to leverage their extensive knowledge and expertise in these fields going forward, regardless of their employment at Dewey & LeBoeuf,” Toohey said.

Toohey also said any problems at Dewey would not disrupt the trade group’s lobbying work.

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“SIA has registered lobbyists on staff and we also work with outside firms as needed to educate policymakers about the semiconductor industry and to achieve our policy priorities. Therefore, we do not anticipate any disruption to our advocacy work,” Toohey said.

Others also said they plan to follow their Dewey representation to their new employment.

“We have a longstanding relationship with Dewey & LeBoeuf partner Eli Farrah, who has informed us that he will be joining another major U.S. law firm shortly. We intend to continue to work with Eli at the new firm,” said Frank Maisano, a spokesman for Trans-Elect Development Co., a Bethesda, Md.-headquartered electric transmission company.

Dewey filed a first-quarter lobbying form this year for Trans-Elect that reported no lobbying activity for the company.

Other clients were more tight-lipped when it came to commenting on their future with Dewey.

“As a matter of policy, we would not comment on consultants we employ or have employed,” said Ron Kuykendall, vice president of communications for the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts.

Dewey also filed a first-quarter lobbying form this year for the trade group that reported no lobbying activity for it.

One question is where Charles Landgraf, the head of the firm’s legislative and public policy group, ends up. Landgraf is also part of Dewey’s office of the chairman, which is running the firm.

Landgraf told The Wall Street Journal that he has had several offers from other firms and will announce what his intentions are in the coming weeks.

One lobbyist who has been monitoring the fallout at Dewey said where Landgraf goes could determine where several insurance companies take their lobbying business.

“Charlie Landgraf has one of the largest portfolios in town for insurance lobbying, and the question is, where is he going to take it?” said the lobbyist. “Nobody knows right now. ... It is not if they close, but when.”

Other observers agree.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if the business follows the lawyers out the door and goes to wherever those lawyers land” said Ivan Adler, a principal at McCormick Group. “Lloyd’s of London is a truly marquee client that any firm would love to have.”

Adler’s headhunting firm has had discussions with attorneys at Dewey, though none in the lobbying practice, about trying to find them new employment. Adler said Dewey’s unraveling has saturated the legal jobs market.

“It’s a free-for-all,” Adler said. “It has had a major stoplight effect at other firms in that it has prevented lots of other firms to put non-Dewey hiring on hold.”