Defections, Key Client Loss Take Toll at Dow Lohnes
While Cox’s in-house attorneys did not respond to requests for comment about the decision to go in another direction for outside counsel, a Cox spokesman told The Am Law Daily that the company was looking to diversify its legal panel.
Dow Lohnes will continue handling communications law matters for Cox, but as noted by the Daily Report, the firm’s exclusive relationship with the company is effectively over. Dow Lohnes must now compete with other firms for Cox work.
With Cox also saying that it will consider using Dow Lohnes lawyers if they move to other firms, Peter Canfield, the firm's local managing partner in Atlanta, told the Daily Report that the office will stay open as the firm works to help partners shift their practices elsewhere.
Those transitions are already under way. Atlanta’s Wargo French added Dow Lohnes corporate and real estate partner Lawrence Humphrey this summer, and earlier this month Atlanta real estate boutique Sheley, Hall & Williams hired Dow Lohnes real estate partner David Lester, senior counsel Jaimie Johnson, and associate Kay Stanley, all of whom have done work for Cox, according to the Daily Report. (Stanley joins her new firm as counsel.)
In another potential Cox-related setback, Atlanta-based AutoTrader—the owner of Autotrader.com, the country's largest automotive classified website—pulled plans in January for a $300 million initial public offering on which Dow Lohnes was advising. Cox, which founded AutoTrader in 1997, owns 75 percent of the company after selling a 25 percent stake to Providence Equity Partners in 2010.
Legal fees related to the shelved AutoTrader IPO are not available. Dow Lohnes had previously represented the company in connection with another effort to go public in 2000. Retired partners Stuart Sheldon and John McNamara handled that potential offering—which, though ultimately withdrawn, yielded $900,000 in legal fees and expenses, according to an SEC filing at the time. (Dow Lohnes also advised AutoTrader in 2010 in connection with its $500 million acquisition of the Kelley Blue Book vehicle-pricing database.)
U.S. Senate records show that Dow Lohnes Government Strategies receives about $160,000 a year for its lobbying efforts for Cox related to potential tax reform legislation, telecom retransmission issues, and cyber-security concerns. As of Friday, the firm’s contract with Cox is still active.
More Defectors Move On
The departures from Dow Lohnes accelerated in the wake of Cox's decision to tap other firms to meet its outside counsel needs.
In August, Kilpatrick Townsend picked up four Dow Lohnes lawyers in Atlanta, including labor and employment partner Russell Jones. Also leaving Dow Lohnes’s Atlanta office last month were corporate partner Matthew Block and litigation partner Jason McCarter, both of whom joined Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, according to the Daily Report.
The Am Law Daily reported last week on Kelley Drye & Warren’s addition of Dow Lohnes’s sports and entertainment practice led by partner Adisa Bakari, a registered agent who represents such National Football League players as Antoine Bethea, Matt Forte, and Maurice Jones-Drew. (Last year Robert London II, a non-lawyer serving as a president of Dow Lohnes’s sports group and a former general manager candidate for at least one NFL team, left the firm to start his own agency.)