Updated 4:52 p.m.
Cooley announced today the firm is merging with Dow Lohnes' Washington office, making the Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm one of the 35 largest law offices in the nation’s capital.
The acquisition, which adds 54 attorneys to Cooley’s base here, strengthens the firm’s foundation in communication, higher education and media practices. The merger takes effect January 1, 2014.
The merger pushes Cooley’s headcount in Washington to about 130 lawyers. The acquisition, representing a large portion of Dow Lohnes' Washington presence, adds 15 partners to Cooley's D.C. ranks.
"I think it’s a mutual recognition of the strengths of us and our clients," Ryan Naftulin, partner-in-charge of Cooley's Washington office, said in an interview with Legal Times. "We are ahead of the curve by understanding and recognizing the Washington regulatory needs of our clients."
Dow Lohnes, which has offices in Washington and Atlanta, has faltered recently. As our sibling publication Am Law Daily pointed out, Dow Lohnes lost more than half of its lawyers in the past three years. Last week Venable scooped up two Dow Lohnes partners in Washington. The merger leaves 12 attorneys remaining in Dow Lohnes' Atlanta office.
John Byrnes, Dow Lohnes' managing partner, said in an interview that Dow Lohnes started to consider the option of a merger with another firm earlier this year. Serious talks with Cooley, Byrnes said, started in September.
"It was something we thought about for a long time but we only started looking at it in earnest earlier this year," Byrnes said.
In addition to attorneys focused on regulatory work, the acquisition brings to Cooley attorneys who specialize in mergers and acquisitions, corporate work, litigation and intellectual property. Byrnes said these attorneys will compliment Cooley's existing strengths while adding a new dimension to Cooley's Washington practice.
"We hope—and we think we are bringing to Cooley—our longtime and well known regulatory expertise," Byrnes said. "I think Cooley sees the needs of their technology clients evolve and change."
Dow Lohnes serves as regulatory counsel to Softbank and advised the Japanese tech company in its July 2013 acquisition of Sprint Nextel Corporation for $21.6 billion. Cooley has represented big-name clients that include HTC, eBay and Nintendo as well as smaller startups.
First opened in 2005, Cooley's Washington office has grown by 50 percent in the last two years. Last year, the Washington office added 27 attorneys—an increase of 33.8 percent. Earlier this year, Cooley moved into the Warner Building at 1299 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. because it had outgrown its previous space at 777 6th St. N.W. Naftulin said that while the firm is always looking for the right lateral hire, it's unlikely to engage in another sizable merger anytime soon.
"We're really focused on our culture so I think it would be hard to believe that we would do something large here immediately," Naftulin said.