Cooley Swoops In to Snap Up Bulk of Dow Lohnes
UPDATES: 10/15/13, 6:10 p.m. EDT. A statement from a Cox spokesman has been added to the 11th paragraph of this story. 10/16/13, 9:45 a.m. EDT. The Recorder, a sibling publication, has more on Cooley's merger with Dow Lohnes. Correction. 10/16/13, 6 p.m. EDT: The original version of this story included an incorrect figure for the number of lawyers Cooley will have once it adds the Dow Lohnes attorneys it is absorbing. The correct figure is 750. The abstract and 17th paragraph of this story have been revised to include the correct information. We regret the error.
Dow Lohnes, a former Am Law 200 firm known for its telecommunications, media, and higher education expertise, has seen its fortunes slip in recent years. The firm's 15-lawyer Atlanta office, which as noted by sibling publication the Daily Report has suffered from a series of lateral departures in recent months following the loss of key client Cox Enterprises, will not be part of the merger with Cooley.
The tie-up has already been approved by Dow Lohnes’s partnership, says firm managing partner John Byrnes, who told The Am Law Daily in an interview Tuesday morning that his firm has been discussing a potential merger "on and off" for most of the summer and early fall.
The Am Law Daily reported last month that Dow Lohnes was holding talks with potential merger partners as it grappled with an abrupt drop in head count as a result of the decision by Atlanta-based Cox to diversify its panel of outside legal advisers. Dow Lohnes has continued to advise Cox, the nation’s third-largest cable system operator, on regulatory matters.
Byrnes says that a pair of D.C.–based Zuckerman Spaeder lawyers—Thomas Mason, chair of the firm's legal profession and ethics practice, and law firm management and business partner Marshall Wolff—served as outside counsel to Dow Lohnes on its merger with Cooley.
That search led to Cooley, Byrnes says, in part because of its "complementary client base" in the technology and media fields. Last week Dow Lohnes advised a newly formed company purchasing 33 radio stations from NextMedia Group, and the firm has long been a powerhouse in the telecom and higher education arenas, according to our previous reports.
Byrnes says his firm’s higher education practice, which had few conflicts with potential suitors given its work in a field with few competitors, dovetails nicely with Cooley’s startup and technology expertise, as many education providers adopt online learning and other tech-based business strategies. Byrnes also cites Cooley’s capital markets, IP, litigation, and technology expertise as being good fits for Dow Lohnes.
Cooley also had something else that Dow Lohnes—a firm founded in 1918 but now down to less than 100 lawyers—needed in any merger partner: size.
“[Growing larger] has certainly been something of a discernible trend the past few years when it comes to serving clients more effectively,” Byrnes says. “Unless you’re a specialized boutique, which we really weren’t, you need to associate with a firm with broader expertise and a larger geographical footprint. And we couldn’t be more pleased than to find that with Cooley.”
Byrnes declined to get into specifics about Cox's decision to look elsewhere for its nonregulatory legal work, but did say that Dow Lohnes's Atlanta office will remain with the firm during its transition period and that he and his colleagues will help its Atlanta lawyers and staffers find new homes.