On Monday, The National Law Journal spoke with Jeffrey Cunard, managing partner of Debevoise & Plimpton’s Washington office, about the office’s 30th anniversary. Cunard also heads the firm’s corporate intellectual property and information technology practices.
When the office first opened, what was the goal?
The focus was to extend the footprint of our presence, which was principally in New York at the time, and to provide broader representation and a Washington context for our clients. The practices that we started with principally were in the area of securities enforcement and counseling. I joined with a partner very shortly after the office opened and we brought communications and intellectual property expertise to the office. In the first half of the 1980s, those were our practice areas.
What’s keeping Debevoise's D.C. attorneys busy these days?
We have lawyers who work on a wide range of securities enforcement and litigation matters. That has been a core practice since the founding of the office. Over the years, we have been involved in some large matters, including the firm's representation of Siemens, SEC and civil litigation arising out of the bankruptcy of Global Crossing. We have a group of people who are actively involved in advising on Dodd-Frank regulatory issues. We represent a number of key players including banks and financial industry groups. It’s a very broad and diverse practice. We also have lawyers, such as myself, who work in intellectual property and technology areas. I also was the principal lawyer for the publishers in settling the Google books litigation.
How has the Washington office grown since it first opened?
The office opened in January of 1982 and at that time we had four lawyers. I was the seventh lawyer to join in September of 1983. By the mid-80’s it grew to include counseling and transaction work for advisors and investment companies. It has since grown to include broader litigation and, most recently, counseling for financial institutions, particularly banks and financial services firms. Today, we are at about 30 lawyers and that is where we have been for the past several years. The area of greatest concentration has been historically in SEC enforcement, financial services, white collar matters, internal investigations and complex civil litigation. More lawyers practice in that constellation of practice areas than in any other area.
Where does the D.C. office fit with the rest of the firm?
We fit in seamlessly. There are areas of the firm’s strength that are shared in this office and with the firm’s other offices. We do not have a traditional Washington legislative or lobbying practice. Maintaining a high profile in SEC enforcement and continuing to lead in Dodd-Frank implementation are important. We can play that role while continuing to complement other lawyers in the firm.
What are the goals for the office moving forward?
Our goals are to continue to provide client service at a very high level. That means practicing with extremely strong lawyers in areas where we have strength and that are rooted in areas where the firm as a whole is strong. We don’t really regard ourselves as a standalone office as we are completely integrated into the firm’s practices. We will grow as the firm grows. Our organic growth comes about as opportunities present themselves. That is a strategy that has served us well in the past and is one that we will pursue in the future.