Managing partner sees bright future for Patton Boggs
Patton Boggs LLP, one of the nation’s leading law firms and long a presence in Alaska’s legal community and the state capitol, celebrated its 50th anniversary in October. Ed Newberry, the firm’s managing partner in Washington, D.C., was in Alaska for the occasion, to meet with Patton Boggs clients and help its attorneys and staff celebrate the event.
Patton Boggs is well known for its lobbying practice as well as legal work, and the firm’s connections with Alaska go back to the early 1970s when Patton Boggs represented Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. in Washington, D.C. Bill Foster, an attorney with the firm, helped steer legislation through Congress that cleared the way for construction of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System.
Patton Boggs has 12 attorneys in the Alaska office, a number that has been stable for several years, and about 550 attorneys nationwide.
“We’re among the top 100 law firms in the nation in size, but we’re best known for our work in the government-business-law intersect,” Newberry said in a visit with the Journal.
The firm’s focus is on the range of complex problems that arise for businesses dealing with government, either agencies or the Congress.
There are offices in Dallas, Denver, New York and New Jersey as well as in Washington, D.C., and Anchorage. There are now three offices in the Middle East with the opening this year of an office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Two other Middle East offices are in Doha, in Qatar, which opened in 2003, and in Abu Dhabi, which opened in 2008. There is also a project office in Dubai.
However, in the Middle East most of the firm’s work is for governments working on financial and commercial contract details of large infrastructure projects.
In Alaska, Patton Boggs specializes in work in the energy industry — ExxonMobil Corp. is a major client — as well as a range of legal and lobbying work for Alaska Native corporations, according to Walter Featherly, the firm’s managing partner in Alaska.
Featherly has a long history of working with Alaska Native corporations, beginning in Southeast Alaska in 1981.
The firm is also a fixture in the state capitol, where Bob Evans, one of the state’s leading lobbyists and a Patton Boggs attorney, is well known.
Patton Boggs’ strong connections in the nation’s capitol are a particular asset for Alaska clients, particularly in the post-Ted Stevens age. A new client for the firm is the University of Alaska, where Patton Boggs will represent the university in its work to secure federal research grants.
Other clients are Alaska Native corporations who are extensively engaged in government agency contracting, Featherly said.
Interestingly, many of the Alaska Native government contracting firms are also engaged with U.S. agencies in the Middle East, and Patton Boggs has been able to support that work with its offices there, Featherly said.
“We’ve been able to keep pace with our clients here as they expand their reach,” he said.
Newberry said the firm’s connection with the Middle East goes back to the late 1970s when one of the partners with an interest in the region began travelling there to establish connections. This predated the huge run-up in oil prices after the 1979 revolution in Iran and the emergence of the Persian Gulf as a major world major oil and gas provider.
The real breakthrough for Patton Boggs came when the ruler of Qatar hired the firm to help it recover a large sum of money that had been embezzled from the government. The effort was successful, and a grateful Qatari government rewarded the firm with permission to open the first office for a U.S. firm in Qatar. Similar permission had been given to a British law firm.
The office in Doha, Qatar, opened with Susan Bastress, the first non-Qatari lawyer licensed to practice in that nation, as managing partner.
Like a lot of the Washington-based law firms with major government practices, Patton Boggs has had senior government figures among its partners.
Ron Brown, later appointed as Commerce Secretary by President Bill Clinton, became a Patton Boggs partner in 1981. In 1989 Brown became chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
In 2010, Patton Boggs acquired the Breaux-Lott Leadership Group including its founders, former senators Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, and John Breaux, a Louisiana Democrat.
Although not a former official himself, Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., one of the firm’s earliest partners, had solid Washington connections.
Newberry sees a bright future for firms like Patton Boggs that specialize in solving government problems for clients, particularly in the regulatory arena. Mergers and acquisitions that require Federal Trade Commission approval are just one example.
“The size and scope of government activity will continue to grow, no matter who gets elected Nov. 6,” Newberry said.