Middle Atlantic Focus - Law Firms Proskauer's Washington, DC Office: Fully Integrated Into A National Platform

Sunday, May 1, 2005 - 01:00

Editor: Mr. Biros, will you tell our readers something about your career?

Biros:Following law school my goal was to become a criminal trial attorney. My first position was as an assistant counsel with the U.S. SenateWatergate Committee. From there I became an Assistant Special Prosecutor for the Office of Special Prosecutor for the Attorney General of Pennsylvania, where I investigated and prosecuted police and political corruption cases in Philadelphia, an almost three-year undertaking. That position was followed by an 11-year stint at the United States Attorney's Office in Washington, DC.During the final years of that period in my career I handled major international investigations involving money-laundering and illegal transfers of technology and weapons. In the late 1980s I left the United States Attorney's Office to join Casson & Harkins, a healthcare boutique.

Editor: How did you come to Proskauer Rose?

Biros: Casson & Harkins was one of the leading healthcare boutiques in the country. That firm merged with Proskauer in 1992 to assist Proskauer in pursuing its interest in greater expansion into the healthcare practice. Certainly one of the most attractive features of Proskauer for me was its extraordinary culture of collegiality.

Editor: Please describe your practice. How has it evolved over the years?

Biros: Because I have dealt with investigative agencies over the years, I understand the investigative mentality - and what the government is looking for when putting a case together.My practice involves, in the main, the representation of organizations which are the targets of such investigations. Since Sarbanes-Oxley, there has been a substantial increase in the number of internal investigations that I am doing for public companies on behalf of boards of directors, audit committees of those boards, or at the direction of senior management.

Editor: In addition to conducting a very busy law practice, you have had a parallel career in teaching and writing.

Biros: I love to teach and write. I have taught at Georgetown University Law Center as an adjunct professor since 1982, and my courses relate primarily to courtroom trial work. Over the past ten years I have taught advanced criminal procedure. This work, in addition to being its own reward, serves to sharpen my focus and enhances my representation of clients.

A few years ago I served as a member of the faculty of the U.S. Federal Judicial Center's Seminar on Criminal Law. The students were federal judges, and the exercise was extremely valuable in providing me with an opportunity to observe how judges perceive certain issues. In order to develop a comprehensive legal strategy for the client, it is essential for a lawyer to have some sense of how the opposing attorneys and the judge will approach the issues. Clearly, teaching is as much an exercise in learning from others as it is in conveying information to them.

Editor: Proskauer has had a presence in Washington for more than 25 years. How has the office grown over the years? What have been the principal growth areas?

Biros: Proskauer has grown over time and in a very measured way. The firm does not jump on every new trend in legal practice, but rather endeavors to grow by acquiring components to complement its practices in waysthat will enhance disciplines and practice groups already in place, and thereby create a wider range of services for its clients. The coordination and integration of different practices is a hallmark of Proskauer.It is something at which the firm directs a great deal of energy so that it evolves in a careful and very deliberate manner.

Editor: Please give us an overview of the work of the Washington office.

Biros: In litigation we handle a variety of complex business cases. We have a small litigation group here, but it is fully integrated into our offices in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere. We recently won a major victory in a series of antitrust class actions on behalf of a large privately held drug wholesale distributor, and we are engaged in a variety of complex multi-party litigations in the District of Columbia and in courts across the country on an ongoing basis. In particular, we have a significant amount of litigation in the IP copyright area.

Our healthcare practice is evolving along two parallel tracks. One track involves regulation and litigation, and the other is transactional. Concerning the former, we represent healthcare providers engaged in litigation against federal and state regulatory agencies on quality of care, licensing and reimbursement issues primarily. We also assist clients seeking to enter the heath care field to understand the existing complex regulatory system, something that has an important impact on the investments our clients anticipate making. In addition, we have become involved in the representation of state agencies in major conflicts with the federal government concerning payments to the states for their Medicaid programs.

Our criminal defense work is extensive, and we represent individuals and organizations being investigated for, or charged with, securities fraud, money laundering, and so on. We conduct myriad internal investigations.Much of this practice involves lawyers who have been government attorneys at some point in their careers.Consequently, in those internal investigations where the organization itself is under scrutiny, our attorneys bring to bear an understanding of how the government will view the issues.The federal government, and particularly the SEC and the Department of Justice, has placed an increased emphasis on cooperation - on shifting the investigative focus onto having the organization being investigated come forward and provide assistance to the government.This effort, if undertaken, requires a very clear understanding of investigative criminal law by the lawyers representing the client. This is a practice area that continues to develop dramatically.

Proskauer has enjoyed a stellar reputation for its employment and labor law practices for many years, and the Washington office is a key contributor to this reputation. The office handles a wide range of employment and labor issues on a national basis.Much of this work is conducted by multi-office teams which draw upon particular areas of expertise from across the firm.One area of employment and labor expertise which is resident in the Washington office, of course, concerns the entire range of federal regulatory matters and insight into legislative activity in the labor and employment law arena.

The IP and technology practice has been involved in a wide range of IP and copyright issues. We have represented some of the major studios with respect to the new decryption technologies that threatened to destroy the emerging DVD market: the software that would allow people to copy DVDs without paying for them. We have also represented a variety of legal and scientific publishers in the protection of their rights.

Our privacy and security law practice assists major corporations in all aspects of their Internet commerce. This emerging practice requires a keen understanding of the point at which technological advances create legal issues.Our practice head in Washington is acutely skilled in understanding the technology and how advances to it create issues relating to protection of privacy and maintenance of security of the information systems of major entities.

Our corporate securities group in Washington, although small, is very active representing a wide range of clients across the entire spectrum of securities law issues and works closely with colleagues throughout the firm.The DC component of the firm's practice focuses upon broker/dealer enforcement issues and corporate finance counseling.As an indication of the depth of this group, one of the Washington partners is a former Director of the SEC Corporate Finance Division and Chair of the ABA Commission on Law and Accounting.

Editor: There was a time when Proskauer's reputation rested largely on its employment and labor law practice. It is a far more diversified firm today, and it is engaged in practicing across a national platform. Can you describe the place of the Washington office in the overall structure of the firm?

Biros: The Washington office is part of Proskauer's philosophy of a single firm.That is, our DC practices are evaluated from the standpoint of how they contribute to the firm's client service goal as a whole. We have had several opportunities to add practice areas to our Washington operation, and we have not done so. Perhaps the proposed addition did not measure up to the quality of practice our clients have come to expect of Proskauer, or it might have been a stand-alone practice that did not coordinate well with other areas of practice.In any event, the principal criterion is that a practice group, wherever it is located, must enhance the overall practice of the firm.I am glad to say that what we do in the Washington office meets that criterion.

Editor: How do you and your Washington office colleagues go about drawing upon the firm's resources - in expertise and personnel - in staffing your projects?

Biros: Proskauer has an extraordinary philosophy about cooperation. We do not cover all areas of the law in this office, and we are dependent on resources that are resident elsewhere to serve our clients' needs. We have a call on those resources, and, by the same token, the skills and talents that reside here are freely available to our colleagues in other offices. As I have indicated, our expertise in the regulatory aspects of employment and labor law serves the entire firm, and our extensive connections with the federal government constitute an extremely valuable resource for every lawyer - and, to be sure, every client - within the Proskauer network.

Editor: What about the future? Where would you like the Washington office to be in, say, five years?

Biros: The Washington office will grow, but in a way that makes strategic sense on a firm-wide basis. Our Boston office recently added a patent litigation capacity that serves the entire firm. After that the Boston office also added a private equity finance group to complement what Proskauer does in its New York office.Similarly, our New Orleans office was established so that one of the premier ERISA class action practice groups in the country could join Proskauer.That group adds immeasurably to our firm-wide efforts in the ERISA field.In Washington, we are looking for practices in the SEC, FDA, private equity and patent areas, but our growth in these areas will reflect our firm-wide needs.

Editor: Proskauer has always enjoyed a splendid reputation for its pro bono activities and its civic and community work. Can you tell us about the Washington office in this regard?

Biros: The Washington office has always exemplified Proskauer's commitment to pro bono and community activities. We encourage our attorneys to get involved, and there is no limit to the amount of work of this type they can handle. We represent both indigent individuals and non-profit organizations. We are engaged in a variety of bar association projects, and our attorneys serve on the governing boards of cultural organizations, museums, theatre arts groups and any number of community organizations. All of this reflects the firm's perception of the absolute necessity that it contribute as a good citizen and member of the communities in which it carries on its activities.

Editor: How does this kind of undertaking relate to firm morale?

Biros:Pro bono and community work is a vital component to firm morale. The people who are engaged in it - and that means just about everyone, whether a member of our administrative or legal staff - know they are helping others with their professional skills.First and foremost, the assistance we provide others really helps those persons in need.Second, the efforts enhance the firm's goal of contributing to the community, promote the firm's reputation as a good citizen and contribute to the advancement of the careers of everyone at Proskauer.These efforts also contribute significantly to my colleagues' self esteem and create an atmosphere for them which embodies a more fulfilling professional experience. I think you will find that the very finest firms - and, of course, I include Proskauer in this group - are precisely those which place the very highest value on their pro bono and community activities.

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