Proskauer's Washington Office: Enhancing A Firm-Wide Practice

Monday, May 1, 2006 - 01:00

Editor: Mr. Biros, would you tell our readers something about the background of Proskauer's Washington, DC office?

Biros: Proskauer has made expanding its presence in Washington, DC a priority. We are committed to growth - a growth that makes professional and economic sense - with the ultimate goal of providing unparalleled service to our clients. We have recognized that growth outside of New York City is a very significant component of the firm's overall business strategy.

Editor: Please tell us about the particular strengths of the office.

Biros: The DC office has a core of extraordinarily talented people across a wide range of practices. Our practice leaders are recognized nationally as some of the best attorneys in their field. Copyright, healthcare, labor, patent litigation, privacy law and securities law and enforcement are among the areas where the office excels.

I should also add that Proskauer emphasizes a "one firm" concept. This creates a firm-wide atmosphere where collaborative efforts between and among departments and offices are encouraged and, indeed, rewarded. Undertaking projects that draw upon the talents of other offices of the firm serves to integrate the DC attorneys into the firm-wide practice and, of course, vice versa. This results in a fabric that binds all of our attorneys and offices together.

The DC office, in addition, is well served by an extraordinarily strong and supportive administrative staff. These people contribute significantly to facilitating our attorneys' efforts to build their practices and serve our clients.

Editor: Are there Washington-specific practices, say, government relations or an appellate practice?

Biros: All of our Washington office practices are national in scope. Many do have a particular aspect that benefits from our being on the ground in Washington. Healthcare and privacy law are examples. Our Washington labor practice is another. Headed by Larry Lorber, whose prior extensive experience includes having been head of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment Standards Administration. The OFCCP is responsible for ensuring that employers doing business with the federal government comply with the laws and regulations requiring affirmative action and nondiscrimintion.

Every employer who does any business with the federal government is subject to OFCCP rules and regulations. Those regulations are arcane, complex and extensive, and they impose a multitude of requirements on employers. Counseling businesses on how to comply with the rules, how to respond to requests for information from the OFCCP and how to investigate and remedy non-compliance are among the services we provide our clients that do business with the federal government. This aspect of the Washington office's labor practice is, accordingly, a "Washington-specific" practice.

Editor: You recently added to the office's Antitrust and Trade Regulation Practice. Would you tell us about the capabilities of that group and your plans for expanding its reach?

Biros: Rhett Krulla recently joined our office from the FTC, where he was a Deputy Assistant Director in the Bureau of Competition. He supervised investigations into many of the country's largest mergers, including the Microsoft investigation. The Antitrust and Trade Regulation Practice Group guides our clients through the difficult antitrust ramifications of their business efforts. With the recent arrival of John Ingrassia, who is an expert on the Hart-Scott-Rodino law, our Washington office is a key participant in the firm's antitrust work. The group has been in the forefront of applying evolving economic principles and enforcement analysis to antitrust investigations. In this connection, we are currently working with a number of our New York colleagues in representing a pharmaceutical company before the FTC with respect to an investigation of a proposed $1.9 billion acquisition.

Another growing - and absolutely critical - area of our Washington office's practice concerns the interface between IP and antitrust law. There is considerable excitement about the expertise this office brings to both sides of this particular discussion. Rhett is working closely with our IP group to provide a combined and integrated expertise to our technology company clients.

Editor: The office has also added to its expertise in the securities area. Please tell us about the securities work of the Washington office.

Biros: This practice involves counseling and enforcement defense work. Dick Rowe is recognized nationally as an expert in the field, having spent 15 years at the SEC, including service as Director of the SEC's Division on Corporate Finance. Robyn Manos, who recently joined us from the SEC, served as Special Counsel in the Corporate Finance Division. Together they provide an extraordinarily creative resource for the firm's clients. They also serve as a guide for our colleagues who need advice on complex and evolving securities law issues. They routinely deal with Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404 internal control disclosure matters, SEC listing standards, tender offers, and private and exempt offerings. Lionel Pashkoff, the other member of our SEC practice group in DC does a full panoply of enforcement work before the SEC, the NASD, and the NYSE.

Editor: Are there areas of expertise you would like to add to the Washington office's portfolio of disciplines?

Biros: We are eager to add to our IP expertise. Colin Sandercock's group, which joined us from Heller Ehrman, is an outstanding addition to our capabilities in this area. The group's practice has been recognized as one of the best in the country. It complements Proskauer's patent practices in Boston and New York.

Our private equity practice is one of the finest in the nation. Attorneys in that practice are in Boston and New York, and we would love to add the right person or group to Washington, again to complement and build our firm-wide expertise.

We are also looking to add food and drug law expertise. Some of our new partners and several of our health care attorneys have experience in this area, but we would like to grow the practice.

Editor: How do you go about recruiting for a growing practice area? Bringing in laterals with extensive expertise and their own clients? Young law graduates or associates from other firms that you propose to train?

Biros: We try to bring in talented laterals with significant experience in practices that augment or complement those already in place. Using this approach allows us to build on our strengths, thereby increasing the likelihood of successful integration with respect to the laterals. There is a kind of cross-fertilization that takes place as well, in that new people bring new ideas to the firm and, in turn, are energized by what they find already underway.

In this process we look for people who have a philosophical "fit" with the members of our firm. It is something intangible, but if we are to succeed in what is a very collaborative undertaking, we think it is important to have everyone pulling in the same direction.

We also recognize the need for bringing in young attorneys and for building for the long-term future. We have a very strong emphasis on education and training, counseling and mentoring, professional growth and a variety of activities - including civic, community and pro bono work - that resonate with particular force among younger attorneys.

Editor: In a very competitive market for the best and brightest, how do go about differentiating Proskauer's Washington office from the competition? What are your selling points?

Biros: Proskauer's Washington office has a number of strong selling points, the principal ones being a dynamic group of people, a very attractive collegial culture and extremely interesting and profitable legal practices. At the moment, we have 35 attorneys, and the office is growing. What that means is that the office has something of the atmosphere of a small firm, but at the same time it possesses all of the advantages of a very large national platform.

Editor: Please tell us about your practice. What kinds of investigations are you handling at the moment?

Biros: I am presently representing an Indian tribal council member who received support from Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon in getting elected. These individuals received tribal contracts in connection with their efforts, but my client insisted that they contain clauses allowing her to cancel at any time and for any reason, which shows she did not waiver in her commitment to the best interests of the tribe.

I also represent a very large provider of healthcare services located on the West Coast. The Texas Attorney General is pursuing alleged false billing practices under the Texas Medicaid program.

I am also representing clients in investigations by the Offices of the Inspector General, one involving the Treasury Department and the other the Department of Human Services.

Finally, I have been involved in representing a large New York chartered bank in an investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office into allegations of money laundering. This matter was settled with the bank not admitting liability but agreeing to pay investigative costs.

Editor: How about Sarbanes-Oxley? Have internal investigations for public companies leveled off?

Biros: Not really. Wherever the organizational culture promotes cutting corners to achieve financial goals, there will be problems. And human beings make mistakes, some innocent, some not. Moreover, the proliferation of laws, rules and regulations governing business conduct also contributes to an ongoing, indeed increasing, need for internal investigations.

Editor: Does Sarbanes-Oxley represent a permanent addition to your practice, or is there a cycle here that indicates something different?

Biros: It represents a permanent addition to my practice. In light of the focus on corporate governance, the emphasis on accuracy in financial records and the expectation of prompt senior management response to any allegation of impropriety, there is a clear recognition that a company must be able to conduct internal investigations to detect, investigate and remedy alleged wrongdoing. With the November 2004 U.S. Sentencing Guidelines mandate for "effective compliance programs," together with the Delaware Court of Chancery decision requiring governing boards to have such procedures in place, internal investigations have become a permanent part of the landscape. Today, an ineffective compliance program, to say nothing of the absence of such a program, will lead to a government conclusion that there is an atmosphere of noncompliance.

Editor: What about the future? Where do you think the Washington office is going to be in terms of size and areas of expertise in, say, five years?

Biros: Our strategic plan is to continue to grow in Washington by adding practice areas that make economic and professional sense. There is no particular number of attorneys for which we are aiming, nor are we attempting to be able to handle virtually every kind of legal problem that arrives on our doorstep. Rather, we wish to increase the practices in the Washington office in a way that enhances Proskauer's overall capability to service its clients.

Please email the interviewee at mbiros@proskauer.com with questions about this interview.