3 Venable lobbyists leave to start new firm

Three Venable lobbyists have left to launch a government-affairs practice at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, which has law offices in 16 foreign countries but little presence on Capitol Hill.

Patrick O’Donnell, who along with fellow Venable alums James Pitts and James Jatras will form the core of the new practice, said the firm’s global reach was a key reason the three decided to move.

He said the new shop will focus on international business, a source of increasing revenues for several K Street firms as global trade continues to grow.

“We feel it’s the new frontier,” O’Donnell said. “There is a ton of business not fully harnessed, and it won’t be for a while.”

Jatras, between trips to Moscow and Brussels, said the foreign offices gave the group a “better platform” for international clients. Business opportunities not only include representing foreign governments before the U.S. Congress, but also facilitating relationships between foreign businesses and the federal government, and between domestic companies and foreign governments.

The lobbyists expect to bring around 12 clients with them to Squire Sanders Public Advocacy, the group’s official name. These include the Indian government, the Rodina political party in Russia, and the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija.

Some pay hefty fees. The Serbian group, for example, pays $100,000 a month, a portion of which goes to another public-relations firm.

The three joined Squire Sanders Public Advocacy about two weeks ago and are gearing up for an aggressive search for new employees.

Eventually the lobbying practice will have as many as 12 partners and 30 lobbyists in total, O’Donnell said. The group is looking for a well-known name to bring in to boost the new group’s stature.

“We want to develop a top-tier legislative practice in Washington,” O’Donnell said.

Joseph Markowski, the managing partner of the law firm’s offices in Washington and Tysons Corner, Va., said the firm was looking to “dramatically expand” its lobbying operations. But he didn’t specify how many lobbyists the group is looking to hire.

Some details, such as how the new lobbying operation will fit in with the firm’s international legal work and with its legal and lobbying efforts at the state level, will be discussed at a partner meeting later this month, Markowski said.

Squire, Sanders & Dempsey has a long list of clients in telecommunications, healthcare and transportation that could benefit from the firm’s new lobbying arm, Markowski said.

The firm plans to build a bipartisan shop, although it leans slightly right at the start. Both O’Donnell and Jatras are Republicans. O’Donnell worked in both the Nixon and Ford administrations, and on former Sen. Howard Baker’s (Tenn.) presidential campaign. His r