Phoenix, Denver And Las Vegas - Law Firms Denver: A Key Piece Of A National Platform

Friday, April 1, 2005 - 01:00
John W. Kellogg
Lino S. Lipinsky

Editor: Would each of you gentlemen tell our readers something about your career?

Kellogg: I began my career with Arthur Andersen in the late 1980s, auditing a variety of clients in Denver and the Rocky Mountain region. Following that experience, I went to the University of Denver Law School and upon graduating joined a Denver firm, where I have been until recently. My practice is focused on corporate and transactional matters, including corporate finance and securities, mergers and acquisitions, corporate investigations and representing audit and other committees of the governing board. This is a practice that pre-dates Sarbanes-Oxley, and I find it interesting to see the statute codifying standards of conduct, director independence, internal controls, reporting procedures, and so on that we were recommending to our clients as best practices.

My previous firm consisted of about 18 lawyers, half of whom were engaged in a corporate transactional practice and the other half in an environmental, water and litigation practice. Integrated with these practices was considerable governmental affairs expertise. We came to realize that a national platform made a great deal of sense for the type of work we were handling. I had done a transaction with John Aldridge, and I came away with a very good impression ofMcKenna Long's focus on clients and their needs. Our firm cultures appeared to be very compatible. Discussions began late in 2004, and we joined the firm effective February 1st of this year.

Lipinsky: I graduated from NYU Law School in 1982. I had grown up in New York and stayed there for a year - which I spent with Willkie Farr & Gallagher - after graduating from law school. In 1983, I moved to Denver. Over the following years, I was with two Denver firms, and in 1996 my wife was elected to Congress, which prompted me to consider joining a national firm with offices in both Denver and Washington, DC. Of the firms that I interviewed, McKenna & Cuneo was the most impressive in terms of the caliber of its attorneys, the quality of the practice and its collegiality. I joined in March of 1997 and have been with the firm ever since. I am currently head of the Denver litigation team. My practice emphasizes complex litigation in a number of areas, including employment law, trade secrets, insurance coverage, technology and contract disputes.

Editor: Please describe your practice. How has it evolved over the course of your career?

Lipinsky: Over the years, more and more of my work has involved trade secrets and technology law. We were heavily engaged in Y2K insurance coverage cases a few years ago, and we attempt to stay abreast of new developments in technology. Needless to say, this is a growing area and one that is dominated by interesting and potentially very significant clients.

Kellogg: My practice started with a strong merger and acquisitions/corporate finance focus. With that focus, the practice grew to include the representation of quite a few companies in public offering transactions in the mid 1990s and evolved into the representation of corporate investigatory special committees. During the late 1990s our firm was engaged in a number of very sophisticated private finance transactions, the representation of public companies engaged in private debt and equity deals, venture capitaltransactions, strategic partnerships, and the like. That practice has continued to do well. Given the vast resources of McKenna Long, we believe it will continue to grow and to provide Wall Street service in Denver at Denver prices.

Editor: And the Denver office? What kinds of disciplines and practice areas are represented by the 15 or so lawyers who make up the office?

Kellogg: The Denver office is a microcosm of our practice nationally. Our largest areas, both in Denver and nationwide, are litigation, government contracts, corporate, environmental and public policy/government relations. With the addition of our group, we have strong corporate transaction,corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions capability.We also bring our environmental, litigation and governmental affairs practices to Denver, integrating with the firm's national platform.

Lipinsky: Before the new group joined us, our strength in Denver was the government contracts and litigation areas. We were looking to grow in other areas, and we are very pleased with the enhancement to our overall practice that our new colleagues represent.

Editor: Will you share with us some of the factors that went into the decision to open an office in Denver? Was the firm looking to develop particular practices or address a particular group of clients in this step?

Lipinsky: The Denver office opened in July 1988. At that time the firm was known as McKenna Conner & Cuneo, and it was divided between an East Coast and a West Coast practice. The firm was the result of a merger that turned out unsuccessfully. After the two components parted company in 1990, the Washington, DC-Denver firm was known as McKenna & Cuneo. The emphasis of the Denver office was on government contracts and litigation. When McKenna & Cuneo merged with Long Aldridge & Norman in 2002, we began to look for Denver practitioners who could add new strengths as well as enhance the strengths already present in the office.

Editor: How does the Denver office fit into the nationwide structure of McKenna Long? Does it draw upon the expertise and personnel of other offices in, say, staffing a project?

Kellogg: Absolutely. Unlike many national firms, we have a true one-firm national platform. There is no home office and a group of satellite offices. We are in a position to drawn upon the full resources of the firm to carry out our engagements, and those resources are both national and international.

Lipinsky: To give you a couple of examples, in just the past two weeks, I have worked with an associate in Atlanta in connection with a Denver client and with another in Los Angeles concerning a case I tried last summer. I try cases with partners from different offices on an ongoing basis, including Dan Johnson, a Washington, DC partner who is a leading national expert on trade secrets. The ability to marshal all of the firm's resources to respond to a specific need is one of the principal strengths of McKenna Long.

Editor: Would you tell us about Denver as an investment destination and place to do business? What are the factors that attract businesses to the region that Denver serves?

Kellogg: Denver's quality of life is a tremendous attraction, and that enhances the city's draw as an investment destination and place to do business. Transportation is also a key factor. Denver International Airport is a true international airport, and enterprises with a global reach can locate in Denver and get to wherever they want quickly and efficiently. I am told that the non-stop Frankfurt to Denver flights are among the most in-demand flights from Europe to the U.S. for the very simple reason that it is possible to reach either coast with a minimum of time and effort. In addition, we are going through a massive transportation redevelopment and upgrade at present. This involves widening the highways and developing a state-of-the-art mass transit system.Over the next few years the foundations for tremendous growth, while preserving quality of life, are going to be laid down for both the city and the region, and I look forward to participating in that growth.

The city is coming into its own at this point. With major league baseball, a great football team, music and the theatre arts, educational institutions and museums, Denver has something to offer everyone. It is becoming a great metropolitan center. At the same time, however, it is possible to be lost in the Rockies within thirty minutes.

Editor:Are these important factors for your recruiting efforts of young associates and lateral hires?

Kellogg: They certainly are. We tend to have more people wanting to come to Denver than there are available jobs. Our number one attraction is quality of life. When they get here, they realize that it is a great place to work as well.

Editor: The office has also been engaged in a variety of pro bono efforts and has played a role in the city's civic and community activities. Could you tell us about some of these activities?

Lipinsky: We have supported groups like Legal Aid of Colorado and the Colorado Lawyers Committee, which are concerned with representing indigent defendants. We have been very active with Colorado Lawyers for the Arts, of which one of our partners, Mark Meagher, is currently the chair.We have also participated in Rebuilding Together and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. In one of the highest profile pro bono cases in Colorado in recent years, I served as lead attorney in what has been called the Denver Spy Files Case. The Denver Police Department had been conducting surveillance activities on peaceful political protestors and sharing the results of that surveillance with other law enforcement agencies. We filed a suit against the city and ended up with a favorable settlement that included a new intelligence policy for the city. It involved a great deal of work, and I was very pleased to be awarded the firm's first Pro Bono Partner Award last year.

Editor: Why are these activities so important to the firm?

Lipinsky: We see it as an attorney's obligation to give back to the community. We encourage every attorney at the firm to take on not only pro bono matters but civic and community projects, church and charitable activities, bar association work, and so on. We expect everyone at the firm to be an active member of the community.

This extends to the political arena as well. Two of us, my Atlanta partner, Buddy Darden, who is a former member of Congress, and I, were delegates to the Democratic National Convention last summer, and we had several partners who were delegates to the Republican National Convention.

Kellogg: I think that lawyers should set an example by participating in community activities and, indeed, of taking on leadership positions. As a profession, we have a place in society that requires us to assume such a role. These undertakings project a very positive firm image, but more importantly, they are the right thing to do.

Editor: How do the clients feel about the firm's public persona?

Lipinsky: Our clients, too, are members of the communities in which they carry on their activities. They appreciate, and are very supportive of, our efforts in this direction. We have encouraged a number of them to join us at events such as the annual meeting of the Colorado Lawyers Committee.

Editor: What do you see for the future? Where would you like the Denver office to be in, say, five years? Growth in personnel? New practice groups?

Lipinsky: McKenna Long & Aldridge does not grow for the sake of growing. It took us seven years to find the right group to join us in the Denver office.I envision us growing in a smart way, based on a careful analysis of the strengths we possess and wish to enhance, and the practice areas we wish to add to our core strengths.

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