The Firms

August 9, 2011 6:50 PM

AT&T/T-Mobile Conflict Spurs Boutique Spin-off from Paul Hastings

Posted by Brian Baxter

Telecommunications Law Professionals (TLP), a five-lawyer boutique based in Washington, D.C., opened its doors last week after several former Paul Hastings attorneys found themselves in repeated client conflicts--most notably one involving a proposed megamerger.

The new boutique's managing partner is Carl Northrop, the former telecom practice leader at Paul Hastings, reports sibling publication The National Law Journal.

"The move was really motivated by recurring conflicts that arose at Paul Hastings," Northrop told The NLJ. "I was a partner for 15 years, and I have nothing bad to say about the firm."

Northrop joined Paul Hastings from Bryan Cave in the late 1990s. Since then, he has built up a roster of telecom clients that includes regional wireless provider MetroPCS Communications. The company is one of about a dozen Paul Hastings's clients jumping to the new firm, Northrop says. 

Earlier this year MetroPCS questioned whether the proposed $39 billion merger between AT&T and T-Mobile USA would consolidate too much of the wireless spectrum in the hands of a single company. MetroPCS, based in suburban Dallas, wants federal antitrust and communications regulators to require any such entity to divest itself of certain holdings before the merger can proceed.

MetroPCS remains one of Northrop's most active clients, Northrop says, adding that conflicts between the company and AT&T were a factor in his decision to branch off from Paul Hastings. (Paul Hastings, which declined to comment on its clients, has represented Dallas-based AT&T on other matters.)

Northrop says that his team at TLP will continue to work closely with Paul Hastings attorneys on matters where conflicts do not exist. Paul Hastings played an important role in helping TLP set up its operations so that Northrop's group wouldn't join a rival Am Law 100 firm, he adds. TLP is based in the same D.C. office building where Paul Hastings has its offices.

Joining Northrop at TLP are five former Paul Hastings colleagues. Retired Paul Hastings partner John Griffith Johnson, Jr., is joining as of counsel, while former Paul Hastings associates Michael Lazarus and Andrew Morentz are joining as partners. Another former Paul Hastings adviser, Vance Schuemann, is joining TLP as a senior public policy adviser, and the boutique is also bringing on Jessica DeSimone as an associate from another firm.

As for the proposed merger that prompted Northrop to set up his own shop, public interest group Consumer Watchdog told regulators on Tuesday that the planned tie-up between AT&T and T-Mobile USA should be rejected, Bloomberg reports.

The FCC hired Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati antitrust partner Renata Hesse in May to help oversee its review of the merger. The agency announced Tuesday that it would consolidate its review of the potential deal with a smaller transaction whereby AT&T is purchasing wireless licenses held by Qualcomm.

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