Davis Wright Dials Up Telecom Play

Kellie Schmitt

The Recorder

November 29, 2006

LOS ANGELES — Davis Wright Tremaine's partnering with Washington, D.C.-based boutique Cole, Raywid & Braverman will strengthen the firm's flagship communications expertise nationwide, leaders said Tuesday.

The addition of the 35-lawyer firm in January will beef up Davis Wright Tremaine's presence on the East Coast, and would add clients from the cable and telecommunications industries to its West Coast practice.

"We really view the addition of Cole, Raywid as an outstanding complement to our existing and nationally recognized communication, media and technology practice," said Suzanne Toller, the chairwoman of the telecommunications practice group for Davis Wright.

With 420 attorneys, Davis Wright had firmwide revenue of $186 million and profits per partner of $360,000 in 2005, according to the American Lawyer. Toller said Cole, Raywid's financials are compatible. All of Cole's 19 partners will be slotted into Davis Wright's equity ranks, Toller said.

In Los Angeles, where Davis Wright has 31 attorneys and works with publishing companies, networks and studios, the firm will gain two lawyers from Cole's small outpost — as well as client relationships, firm leaders said.

Both of the new additions to the office possess telecommunications and regulatory expertise that Davis Wright doesn't currently offer in the city, said Mary Haas, the partner in charge of Davis Wright's Los Angeles office. That will allow the firm to service their L.A.-based clients' regulatory needs with local attorneys.

"We have used our resources outside of L.A. for those clients, but now we'll have a local presence," she said.

In Los Angeles, Cole, Raywid has represented Adelphia and Charter Communications. One of their largest clients, Comcast, serves the San Francisco Bay Area.

Davis Wright's 38-lawyer San Francisco office's regulatory work is also compatible with Cole's communications expertise in Washington D.C., where that firm houses the bulk of its attorneys.

Cole is "one of the leading communications boutiques in town," said Jeffrey Lowe, the managing partner for Major, Lindsey & Africa's Washington, D.C., office.

On the federal side, Davis Wright works with wireless companies in proceedings in front of the Federal Trade Commission.

"For us in California on the communications side, this provides an opportunity to potentially expand the scope of federal regulatory work we do because we will be perceived as having a larger presence in D.C.," Toller said.

Likewise, Cole, Raywid wanted a West Coast presence to serve its core cable clients, said Steven Horvitz, a Cole, Raywid partner.

Horvitz also said that a larger platform overall — with broader transactional and litigation resources — was enticing enough to lose the firm's cherished independence. The move made sense with both firms targeting a similar space, and even having some shared clients such as T-Mobile, he said.

Further strengthening and marketing their communications practice is a smart strategy for a Seattle-based firm, said Karen Andersen, the managing partner for Major, Lindsey & Africa in Seattle.

"They've certainly thought a lot about how to grow, and it makes sense to grow in areas in which they have a lot of expertise and a national name," she said

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