Few office views compare to those of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom partner Clifford "Mike" Naeve. As the head partner of the firm's Washington office, Naeve's corner-office view overlooks the White House and the Treasury Department, with the Washington Monument in the distance. But it's not the quintessential D.C. view that clients are after when they seek out Naeve. It's his expertise.
A former commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Naeve is in his fourth year as leader of the Skadden's Washington office. He first joined the firm in 1984 after graduating from George Washington University Law School, but left shortly thereafter to join FERC. Naeve returned to the firm a partner in 1988.
With an army of almost 300 attorney's, Skadden's Washington office is the sixth largest in the nation's capital, according to our latest Legal Times 150 survey. The D.C. office, which occupies three buildings along G Street N.W. between 14th and 15th Street, is the firm's second-biggest, after New York.
Legal Times sat down with Naeve February 1 to talk about the upcoming regulatory forecast, the firm's renewed office lease and Texas.
Legal Times: You're entering your fourth year as head of the D.C. office. What unexpected challenges have you faced along the way?
Naeve: What I didn't understand or expect when I first started practicing law is how dynamic the practice of law is. Even in a particular practice area, the needs of the practice change from year to year and you have to stay in front of it if you want be successful. That presents a challenge, but it also makes it exciting and interesting. But for that it wouldn't be nearly as much fun.
What are your thoughts on the regulatory forecast for 2013?
Starting with energy, shale gas is probably the most important development in the energy space in some time. It's having huge effects on our energy profile. Not only the gas markets, but for that matter the electricity markets. It affects which technologies are viable and which technologies are not viable. In that area, there will be lots of interesting issues coming up in the next year, issues pertaining to the potential export of shale gas and how that will affect prices and industries that are reliant upon gas. It will also affect electricity prices.
Any regulation or legislation dealing with renewable and clean energy will also affect the choice of technology. We recently saw a one-year extension of the wind tax credit. Further extensions of that tax credit or other incentives for renewable energy will affect the construction of new facilities and it will affect our project finance practice.
In addition to that, EPA regulation of coal plant emissions will affect the potential retirement of a great many coal plants. As those plants are retired, that too will spur a need to replace that capacity and investment. Again something that will affect our project practice and perhaps our other transaction practices.
What other regulatory practice groups are likely to see changes soon?
On a broader scale, I think the implementation of the Affordable Care Act will be important, not only from a Washington regulatory perspective when it comes to implementation and regulation, but also from a transaction perspective. As that act is implemented, it will create new business opportunities for healthcare providers and new transactional opportunities. Likewise, the continued implementation of Dodd-Frank will be important.
In 2011, the firm renewed its D.C. lease. What factors contributed to the decision to stay put?
We did look elsewhere, but eventually we decided to stay here. The primary factor is simply the location. Our partners felt very strongly that they would like to stay in the space if it was economic to do so and we arranged the lease with the owners of the campus that we're on to do that.
Are there any plans for renovation and expansion?
We have a lot of flexibility. We acquired a significant amount of additional space in the buildings where we're housed and I think of it as a campus because there are three buildings, but they are all interconnected and function as one. We did acquire additional space to give us flexibility for growth. We don't have specific growth targets. Our goal is to have the resources in place to meet the needs of our clients. As those needs change we will add resources as necessary, so we want the flexibility to do that, but we don't have specific targets.
You're from Texas. Where do you go when you're looking to get your fix of barbecue and Mexican food?
Los Cuates in Georgetown. That is where I go most often. I also go to Rio Grande Café. Those are probably my two favorites for Mexican food. For barbecue, I'll eat barbecued ribs just about anywhere, but I haven’t found any place here that cooks brisket like you get back in Texas.
What's the story behind Texas and Mexican flags that hang in your office?
These were reproduced by the Texas Sesquicentennial commission. The top one is a reproduction of the flag that flew over the Alamo, and the second one is a reproduction of the first flag of the Republic of Texas. They were given to me for chairing an energy conference when I first came to Skadden. The person with the conference knew that I was friends with Jerry Langdon, who was a commissioner at FERC. He actually had taken my seat at FERC. Jerry was also from Texas. I had been in Jerry's office and he had these framed reproductions in his office and I was admiring them. He told the conference sponsor that I admired the flags, so they gave them to me as a gift.
This is part of a series of Q&A sessions Legal Times is conducting with D.C.-based law firm managing partners. Photo by The National Law Journal's Diego M. Radzinschi.