Cooley Swoops In to Snap Up Bulk of Dow Lohnes

, The Am Law Daily

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Joe Conroy and John Byrnes
Joe Conroy and John Byrnes

Cox's general counsel and corporate secretary Shauna Sullivan Muhl did not respond to a request for comment about Cooley picking up most of Dow Lohnes, nor did former Dow Lohnes partner Peter Cassat, who serves as general counsel of Cox subsidiary the AutoTrader Group. A Cox spokesman says that the company wishes Dow Lohnes well and expects to continue using the firm's lawyers for telecom regulatory work while they are at Cooley.

Cooley CEO Joseph Conroy, who joined the firm in 1999 from Hunton & Williams, told The Am Law Daily that Cooley was a relative latecomer to the Dow Lohnes discussions. (The Am Law Daily noted in September that several Am Law 100 firms had held merger talks with Dow Lohnes.)

Six weeks ago Conroy received a call from Dow Lohnes administrative law partner M. Anne Swanson—the two had previously worked on a media transaction together—about potentially making a play for the firm. Conroy says he was skeptical at first, as Dow Lohnes’s Atlanta office didn’t fit into Cooley’s plans, but his interest grew when he looked at the target firm’s “core partners.”

Conroy and Ryan Naftulin, the head of Cooley’s D.C. office and vice chair of the firm’s business department, took the lead negotiating the terms of a merger. Conroy says that his firm made no guarantees to clinch the deal, adding that the compensation schemes between both firms are similar, a notion seconded by Byrnes, who will become a member of Cooley's compensation committee and assist with integration efforts between both firms.

“This is a transformative transaction for us,” says Conroy, noting that more than 75 percent of Cooley’s partners gave the merger their approval in a vote on Saturday. The firm has put a premium in recent years on growing its D.C. and Northern Virginia operations, which handles work for clients like Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies, as well as the PayPay cofounder's Hyperloop idea.

Cooley's merger with Dow Lohnes is the Am Law 100 firm's first since its 2006 tie-up with New York’s Kronish Lieb Weiner & Hellman, although Cooley has made several large bulk lateral hires in recent years, such as bringing on 35 lawyers from the Venture Law Group amid the dissolution of Heller Ehrman in late 2008. According to the most recent Am Law 100 financial data compiled by The American Lawyer, gross revenue at Cooley was up 9.3 percent to $617 million in 2012, while profits per partner rose nearly the same percentage to $1.5 million.

The Dow Lohnes name will disappear as a result of Tuesday’s announcement, as the combined 750-lawyer firm will go live under the Cooley banner on January 1, pushing the latter's attorney head count in D.C. to about 130, according to sibling publication The Blog of Legal Times.

Byrnes says that Cooley, which has 11 offices in the U.S. and a base in Shanghai, will assume his firm's D.C. lease and that Dow Lohnes lawyers will begin moving into Cooley’s new offices in the Warner Building sometime in the first quarter of next year. (Cooley opened its D.C. office back in 2005.)

Dow Lohnes's union with Cooley wasn't the only large firm merger deal announced Tuesday.

Fort Lauderdale–based Becker & Poliakoff confirmed that it will absorb 13-lawyer Taylor & Carls, a Central Florida firm specializing in community associations, according to sibling publication the Daily Business Review, which last week reported on the merger between Am Law 200 firm Carlton Fields and Jorden Burt to form a 370-lawyer firm with offices in 10 U.S. cities.

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