Business clients of a law firm often prefer to work with a firm that has a presence in the nation’s capital. And that’s understandable, given the pace of federal regulatory change, among other things.
That explains why the law firm of Bass, Berry & Sims PLC believes its opening of a new office earlier this year in Washington will resonate in a big way with the firm’s clients.
The Nashville-based firm, which also has an office in Memphis, has more than 200 attorneys who represent more than 40 publicly traded companies. In Memphis alone, there are several companies here that do business in foreign countries, said Brook Lathram, a member in Bass Berry’s Memphis office.
Lathram said Bass Berry also does an extensive amount of work with clients who have such issues come up as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, investigations under which often are centered in Washington.
“It was a carefully considered decision,” Lathram said about the new office. “Ultimately, we decided it was a no-brainer. We have clients who think that it’s important that they be represented by a law firm that has a Washington presence. It’s certainly understandable that business clients often want a firm that has a Washington presence, because so much happens there.”
Case in point: Lathram said he does a large amount of white collar criminal work, and there are now more than 4,500 federal criminal statutes.
Furthermore, there are 49 titles to the U.S. Code, and there are criminal statutes in 48 of those titles. Not to mention thousands of regulations promulgated by different federal agencies – regulations that impose actual criminal penalties.
“Even the best corporate citizens out there can get ensnared here,” Lathram said. “We used to joke that you shouldn’t make something a federal crime – well, Congress has done that. A lot.”
The Washington office currently has three lawyers. John Kelly is its managing partner.
His background is in white-collar criminal enforcement, and during his career he also was an assistant chief in the health care fraud section of the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal division.
Terry Clark, a patent law expert, also is an attorney in that office, as is Anne McNamara.
“So if I have a client, for example a health care provider, who has an issue or maybe there’s an allegation – maybe a disgruntled employee has made an allegation and they want to meet with the Justice Department, it’s great to have someone like John,” Lathram said. “It all ties back to the regulations from Washington in business these days. The correctly perceived need by clients of being represented by firms that do have a Washington office. A significant Washington office.
“It’s a synergistic thing. You add a piece – a Washington office – and you strengthen the effectiveness of our offices in Memphis, in Nashville and elsewhere.”