Blank Rome buys out struggling DC firm

The law firm Blank Rome has acquired Dickstein Shapiro, taking on more than 100 attorneys. 

A deal had long been expected, as Dickstein had been suffering from a wave of defections and was known to be seeking a merger partner.

Rumors swirled earlier this year about a combination with Blank Rome, even as the firm suffered a spate of bad publicity from the scandal involving former Speaker Denny Hastert (R-Ill.). Hastert had worked as a lobbyist for Dickstein and recently pleaded guilty in a hush-money case to resolve charges he lied to the FBI about bank withdrawals. He resigned from the firm in May.

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Rather than a merger, Blank Rome decided to buy out Dickstein’s teams and take over its lease in Washington.

A message posted Thursday on Dickstein Shapiro’s website on Thursday declared the firm “is no longer in the practice of law.”

Blank Rome in a statement said it had acquired nearly all of Dickstein’s lawyers in Washington and New York. Most of them are based in Washington.

“Over the past several weeks, a number of us at Blank Rome have had the pleasure of spending time getting to know our new partners and colleagues on both a professional and personal level. Jim and I knew early on that this was an outstanding opportunity to bring our teams together,” said Alan Hoffman, Blank Rome’s chairman and managing partner, referring to James Kelly, the new chairman of Blank Rome’s Washington office and former chairman of Dickstein Shapiro. 

“The partners in the group have an impressive average of more than 20 years with Dickstein Shapiro and represent the core team that formed the firm and made its Washington, D.C., office among the very best in the District,” Hoffman continued in a statement.

In both Washington and New York, the new team — including Dickstein’s shrunken staff of lobbying and public policy pros — will be operating under the name Blank Rome.

The pre-merger Blank Rome earned almost $2.2 million in lobbying revenues last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Its clients include American Cruise Lines, Inc., Alaska Railroad Corp., Emergent BioSolutions, and BWX Technologies, an energy technology company.

However, the firm has been more focused on its legal work. Acquiring Dickstein’s staff puts the firm at more than 620 attorneys in 14 offices, strengthening or creating whole new practices in areas such as government contracts, insurance coverage, financial services and intellectual property. 

Despite losing many of its lawyers, Dickstein had still been considered among the most profitable law firms in town.

Even though the firm’s headcount had declined in recent years from 340 to roughly 130 people, it still posted profits per partner of about $1 million, according to the American Lawyer magazine.

The firm’s lobbying revenue did not stay as constant, however. In 2011 — its top-grossing year — Dickstein pulled in about $8.5 million in advocacy fees. Last year that figure declined to $450,000, with clients including the American Greyhound Track Operators Association and the Secure ID Coalition. 

By the year’s end, only those two clients remained and eight others had cut their lobbying contracts.

Dickstein’s public policy team also traveled over to Blank Rome, the firm said. It faced a blow in 2014 when more than a dozen lawyers and lobbyists — including the head of the practice, Andrew Zausner, left for Greenberg Traurig. 

Zausner took former Reps. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) and Albert Wynn (D-Md.) and former Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-Arkansas) — and a $2 million per year lobbying contract with tobacco giant Lorillard — with him to Greenberg.