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September 1, 2009 1:30 PM

Football Defections Leave Patton Boggs Looking for New COO

Posted by Brian Baxter

The National Law Journal reports that the departure of longtime partner and chief operating officer Ira Fishman from Patton Boggs to join former colleague DeMaurice Smith at the NFL Players Association has Patton Boggs turning to an executive search firm to fill the void.

Fishman's last day at the firm was August 21, according to the NLJ. He started as managing director of the NFLPA last week. The move comes six months after Smith left the firm to become executive director of the players' union and three months after Patton Boggs picked up the union as a lobbying client.

Patton Boggs managing partner Stuart Pape told The NLJ that deputy managing partner Edward Newberry will fill in for Fishman temporarily. Executive search firm The Alexander Group has been retained to screen and present potential candidates for the COO job, which doesn't necessarily have to be filled by a lawyer.

At the NFLPA, Fishman joins two former Patton Boggs associates who left the firm earlier this year. According to the NLJ, the latest move is likely to cement the union's relationship with the firm, which was paid $50,000 in lobbying fees in the second quarter of this year for work on antitrust and labor issues.

Patton Boggs is one of many outside firms handling work for the union; others include Dewey & LeBeouf, Weil, Gotshal & Manges, and Latham & Watkins. Dewey and Weil handle collective bargaining and litigation work for the NFLPA while Latham--where Smith worked prior to joining Patton Boggs--was brought in this summer to settle a class action filed by retired players. (Click here for an Am Law Daily Q&A with Smith and here for a story from The American Lawyer on a possible shuffling of the union's outside counsel roster.)

Fishman, who said the opportunity to work on players' issues with Smith was too tough to turn down, will be responsible for day-to-day operations at the union, which is facing contentious negotiations with the league over a new labor agreement.

Last week the NFLPA was hit with a civil suit filed by Mary Moran, a former director of human resources at the union. According to Pro Football Talk, a blog owned by NBC Sports run by former labor and employment lawyer Mike Florio, the suit contains allegations that Smith attempted to get the U.S. Department of Justice to stop a U.S. Department of Labor investigation into labor practices that took place at the NFLPA before he assumed control in March.

Smith served as counsel to current U.S. attorney general Eric Holder, Jr., when Holder was deputy attorney general at Main Justice during the Clinton administration.

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