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May 9, 2011 7:28 PM

Abbe Lowell Returns to Chadbourne & Parke

Posted by Tom Huddleston Jr.

In April 2007, after four years as head of Chadbourne & Parke's white-collar criminal defense group, high-profile defense lawyer Abbe Lowell departed that firm to head McDermott Will & Emery's white-collar practice. Four years later, Lowell, 59, is returning to his former post, Chadbourne announced Monday.

McDermott's size and range of practice areas drew Lowell to the firm, he told The American Lawyer in 2007. Chadbourne has 12 offices and a little more than 350 lawyers, compared with McDermott's nearly 1,000 lawyers in 17 offices. 

"I just loved Chadbourne, but thought I could grow beyond my own abilities at a larger firm with more practice areas," Lowell says now. "It turns out that that's not necessarily the case, and in my practice area it isn't the case."

And, Lowell says, he now can better appreciate the advantages of a smaller firm. "Chadbourne represents the type of firm that strives for legal excellence and does it by continuing to have partners who know and try to help each other, which you can do with a firm that's in the three hundreds, versus a firm that's in the thousands."

Lowell, who plans to split his time each week between the firm's home base in New York and Washington, D.C., is best known for his work with some of Washington's biggest names.

During President Bill Clinton's impeachment proceedings, Lowell served as chief investigative counsel to Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. And while he has a history of representing Democrats, he also took on Jack Abramoff as a client. The former Republican lobbyist pled guilty to charges of conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion, in 2006.

In 2008, Republican Nevada governor Jim Gibbons, a Lowell client, was cleared of wrongdoing by the Justice Department after an investigation that looked into whether he exchanged military contracts for gifts. Lowell currently is involved in ongoing appeals processes in cases for Puerto Rico senator Hector Martinez Maldonado, convicted of bribery, and former Republican New York state senator Frank Bruno, who will appeal a pair of federal fraud convictions in June.

Bobby Burchfield, co-partner-in-charge of McDermott's D.C. office wished Lowell well and expressed optimism about the firm's white-collar group going forward in a statement released by the firm. "As a range of new regulatory requirements take effect, we expect our team in Washington, D.C., to be particularly active advising clients across multiple industries," he said.

Lowell originally joined Chadbourne in 2003 after serving as the D.C. managing partner of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, where he also led the white-collar and special investigations group, for four years. Prior to that, he had been a name partner at Brand, Lowell & Ryan, a firm he cofounded in 1983. 

Since Lowell left, Chadbourne had a change in leadership--D.C. partner Andrew Giaccia was appointed managing partner in December 2010, succeeding longtime managing partner Charles O'Neill.

"Chadbourne has turned the reins over to a new, younger management, of which the managing partner is a close, personal friend, and he was very responsible for my return," Lowell says.

Though Lowell has moved around over the past two decades, he says he's found a more permanent home for his practice.

"You don't go back to your former spouse to leave again," he says.

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