Under Fanone's leadership, the Washington office has grown from 40 attorneys at the end of 2011 to 52. In addition to his duties as managing partner, Fanone also maintains a finance practice.
Legal Times sat down with Fanone to discuss the growth of the Washington office, its retooled focus and his Italian heritage.
What is keeping the Washington office busy?
At the time that I stepped in at office managing partner, we took some time to reflect on the direction of the office. We were trying to focus on areas where legal services were needed. We have a real estate practice for the firm and then we went into the recovery section of the real estate practice and emphasized that. Within the real estate department, we identified a group for distressed real estate. Even though the country as a whole is in the recession, we believe that the Washington area economy is still very strong. Housing is very strong here now. You're starting to see a lot of significant mixed use development. We have tried to enhance the real estate group in Washington that represents developers.
We continue to look for real estate development lawyers to couple with our finance practice. I do a great deal of tax increment finance in connection with mixed use developments. We see the need of coming in and not only being able to do the finance side of it, but also the development side. We continue enhance that practice.
What about future growth plans?
We have identified a number of growth areas. We have a group in the consumer finance service area that joined us from Patton Boggs at the end of 2012. That group has been a tremendous addition and has added a number of associates since they've been here. We continue to look at other areas.
We feel as though we need a governmental affairs group. We like to enhance our litigation group and white-collar crime; enhance the regulatory side of our Washington office. We do a lot of higher education and healthcare work. That has primarily been in the finance area, but we are looking to expand and put it into the regulatory practice. We have a very strong energy group, both on the regulatory and project finance side.
Tell me a little bit more about the real estate practice. What are some of its clients?
We have a housing group here that represents housing authorities throughout the country. We are bond counsel to the District of Columbia Housing Finance Agency and the District of Columbia itself. We represent and do finance work for the universities in the city - Catholic, American, GW and Howard. We represent MedStar Health, a major healthcare provider in the area. We represent underwriters, both on Wall Street and locally. Another major part of our practice is representing Freddie Mac in their housing and credit enhancement programs. It's a diverse group and one of the largest in terms of numbers of lawyers in the city.
What keeps you busy outside the practice of law?
I was chairman of board of Hyde Leadership Public Charter School, which is now called Perry Street Preparatory School. I stepped down at the end of last year, having been chair for 10 years. Public education, certainly in the urban setting, is something that has interested me. I was able to provide my finance background to assist in getting a building for the school and being able to finance it.
I'll be frank with you, I like work a lot and apart from Perry Street Prep, it's really just spending time with my family.
That part is inherited. I'm a son of Italian immigrants who came to the U.S. My father came after World War II, and my mother's family was here before the war in a small town in western Pennsylvania. My father instilled in me a work ethic.
He told me I couldn't play golf as a kid because it was frivolous. It hurts me now because I can't play football or basketball anymore. I often told him that he created a drive and a work ethic. He used to say that we work together as a family. He made sacrifices so that I could get an education. It's kind of the American dream story.
Do you have a favorite Italian restaurant in D.C.?
Tosca. Their lobster risotto is great.
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.