Hey, That’s My Name on the Building

The names behind some of Washington's biggest law firms

By: Marisa M. Kashino

Most of DC’s largest and most powerful law firms are named after lawyers who are retired or long dead. But in a few cases, real people with those names are still working in the buildings.

Thomas Hale Boggs Jr. is a K Street legend. His law and lobbying firm, Patton Boggs, has the biggest lobbying presence in the District. Boggs—who joined the firm then called Barco, Cook, Patton & Blow in 1966—was one of the first lawyers to start a lobbying practice at a traditional law firm. “Boggs” was added to the name in 1967. He is still chairman. Founding partner James Patton Jr. retired in 2000.

Robert Strauss founded the firm that would become Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld—one of Washington’s largest law and lobbying firms—in 1945. At 93, he remains a partner at the firm, where he splits his time between the Washington and Dallas offices. Of Akin Gump’s other name partners, only Alan Feld, who joined in 1960, remains at the firm, though he’s based full-time in Dallas.

Douglas Henderson is the only remaining founding partner of the intellectual-property behemoth Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner. Ford Farabow, Arthur Garrett, and Donald Dunner also still practice at the firm. Henderson started the firm in 1965 with Marcus Finnegan out of an office overlooking Farragut Square. Henderson, 76, still oversees some client relationships.

Dickstein Shapiro was founded in New York in 1953, but by 1956 Sidney Dickstein and David Shapiro had moved to Washington, which became the headquarters. Today, Dickstein Shapiro has 235 lawyers. Sidney Dickstein still has an office at the firm and is involved with one client, though he’s mostly retired. Shapiro died in 2009. Dickstein’s favorite memories are of defending clients against McCarthy-era loyalty-security reviews in the 1950s.

Of Washington’s major law firms, Wiley Rein is one of the newest. It began in 1983 when Richard Wiley and Bert Rein, along with 37 other lawyers, broke from Kirkland & Ellis because Richard Wiley’s communications practice conflicted with a Kirkland client. Wiley Rein now has about 300 attorneys, 80 of whom focus on communications law. Both Wiley and Rein have active practices.

This article appears in the February 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.