Defections, Key Client Loss Take Toll at Dow Lohnes
This summer, Dow Lohnes grabbed the role of regulatory counsel to Allbritton Communications on its $985 million sale of several TV stations to Sinclair Broadcast Group, a deal that is likely to get a close look from regulators. The firm is also serving as corporate and regulatory counsel to Local TV Holdings in connection with its proposed $2.73 billion sale of 19 TV stations to the Tribune Company in a transaction that received Federal Trade Commission approval in July.
Last year Dow Lohnes was one of several firms retained by Japanese telecom giant SoftBank for its $20.1 billion buy of Sprint Nextel. Dow Lohnes served as regulatory counsel to SoftBank, which received the necessary approvals this summer to complete its acquisition of the third-largest wireless provider in the U.S. (The American Lawyer recently named the tie-up beween SoftBank and Sprint as its Global M&A Deal of the Year.)
Further evidence of Dow Lohnes’s prowess in the telecom sector can be found in the names of the former firm lawyers who have gone on to take top in-house roles both in private industry and government agencies.
Kevin Latek, who spent 14 years as a partner at Dow Lohnes, left last year to become a senior vice president at Gray Television. Another former partner, Suzanne Underwald, left Dow Lohnes last year to become senior vice president of legal affairs for Scripps Networks Interactive.
To-Quyen Truong, the onetime head of Dow Lohnes’s telecom practice, left the firm in 2009 to join the FDIC before moving on last year to become the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's deputy general counsel for litigation, oversight, and enforcement support.
The firm's younger generation is also on the move. Marc Sher, a media lawyer whom Dow Lohnes managing partner John Byrnes Jr. touted as a “rising star” in announcing his promotion to the partnership last year, left last month to become an associate general general at Gannett. And Leah Stupak, an associate specializing in FTC matters, joined eBay this month as a marketing and product counsel.
What Does the Future Hold?
Byrnes, who joined Dow Lohnes’s management committee a decade ago and succeeded corporate department head and current chairman Leonard Baxt as managing partner, clearly faces some challenges in what is an uncertain environment for all firms. (Neither Byrnes nor Baxt returned calls seeking comment.)
Two large firms with roots in D.C., Howrey and Hogan & Hartson, pursued separate strategies in recent years, with Howrey opting for growth through aggressive lateral hiring—and ultimately dissolving—and Hogan & Hartson joining the ranks of the international giants by merging with British firm Lovells.
Dow Lohnes leaders must now decide which path they will follow. Those familiar with the current situation are eager to see what transpires.
“It’s a good firm, and I don’t blame management, because it’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback,” says one former Dow Lohnes lawyer. “Mergers don’t always work. It’s such a tough market. The question really is—can the little guy survive?”