News & Politics

What is the Victoria’s Secret of Law Firms?

How Would law firms be perceived if they were specialty stores? We take a look.

Last summer we wrote about how local law firms would trade if they were stocks: We predicted Wiley Rein’s great leap in profits and warned that high-level defections made Howrey a “sell.” This year we wondered how firms would be perceived if they were specialty stores. Unfortunately there aren’t too many bargain stores in this environment, where the store clerks often start at $145,000 a year or more.

Ain & Bank: Washington’s tony divorce practice is known for its obsession with discretion and protecting clients from publicity. Victoria’s Secret, perhaps.

Feldesman Tucker Leifer & Fidell: You don’t see an Ain & Bank store without divorce queen Marna Tucker’s sign nearby. It summarizes family-law practice to think of her firm as Bed Bath & Beyond.

Watson & Renner: High-tech litigator Tom Watson fled the comfort of big-firm practice to fight the Microsofts of the law world. His glassy modern quarters add to his image as his world’s equivalent of the Apple Store.

Trout Cacheris: The legal career of Plato Cacheris is real-life Washington history, from his representation of FBI traitors like Robert Hanssen to CIA moles like Aldrich Ames. Spotting Cacheris at a Palm lunch is the law-firm equivalent of a visit to the International Spy Museum Store.

Wiley Rein: From CBS to Sirius Satellite Radio, Wiley Rein fulfills every client’s electronic needs. Just like a visit to Radio Shack.

Regan Zambri & Long: DC’s top personal-injury boutique is led by Patrick Regan. This is where Washingtonians in the know go after they’ve been run over and need to be restored to financial health. Like a visit to Restoration Hardware.

Cohen & Cohen: Regan rival Wayne Cohen is now spending more time running an empire of legal-stenography companies. We like to think of his firm now as Fahrney’s.

Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll: Lead partner Michael Hausfeld is the country’s best-known litigator of big lawsuits with hundreds of plaintiffs and multiple defendants. As a store, he would be Big Lots.

Covington & Burling: Old styles are still favored. Compensation system still considered antiquated. There’s only one store it could be: Talbots.

Arnold & Porter: Once-trendy practice is falling on increasingly hard times. Profits are down, shareholders are nervous. Future is in flux. Just like the Gap.

Williams & Connolly: Top-flight merchandise at top billing rates. For the discriminating client who would otherwise be shopping at Neiman Marcus.

Zuckerman Spaeder: It’s the ultimate small specialty boutique, and attorneys like star defense lawyer Bill Taylor are some of the best legal chefs in town. With the ingredients to handle any tasty case, it’s like a visit to Sur la Table.

Steptoe & Johnson: Made its name in recent years with one big name, star defense lawyer Reid Weingarten. But Weingarten lost his last big case for client Bernie Ebbers and needs a high-profile victory. Much like a big retailer that banked on Martha Stewart and suffered when she went to prison: Kmart.

Hogan & Hartson: Homegrown Washington behemoth now has offices in Houston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Denver, McLean, and even White Plains. The firm used to represent many mall owners, including Mills Corporation. Seems to be becoming the kind of company it used to represent: Costco.

Patton Boggs: Like a famous drug chain, Patton Boggs offers many products but is really only distinguished for its prescription lobbying counter. CVS.