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July 22, 2010 2:45 PM

Sweet Smell of Success for Law-Lobby Shops

Posted by Brian Baxter

The new financial services reform bill signed into law by President Barack Obama on Wednesday might be a boon to law firms. But coupled with health care legislation passed earlier this year, the real beneficiaries have been the lobbying groups of several Am Law 200 firms catering to corporate clients and industry groups worried about the new reforms.

"I think there is a growing realization in the business community that everything that impacts their bottom line and daily activities is impacted by an extraordinarily activist government in Washington," said Kevin O'Neill, the deputy chairman of Patton Boggs's public policy department, in an interview with The Hill. "They need to be engaged on many levels going forward."

For Patton Boggs, which boasts the largest lobby shop in D.C. (the firm acquired the Breaux Lott Leadership Group earlier this month), lobbying revenue in the first half of 2010 hit $20.8 million--a 12 percent increase over the same time period in 2009. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld saw profits from lobbying increase 13 percent to $18.1 million during the first half of 2010.

Those two D.C. powerhouses aren't the only law firms boasting such earnings. According to lobby data disclosed this week and analyzed by Roll Call, Denver-based firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck broke into the top five in lobbying revenue for the first time. (The Denver Post has a rundown on some of the firm's lobbying engagements.)

"We're basically the same size in terms of overhead compared to last year," Brownstein Hyatt government relations cochair Alfred Mottur told Roll Call. He attributed the surge in the firm's lobbying revenue to "the two R's--retention and renewal."

Also, some companies substantially increased their lobbying expenditures this year. The National Law Journal, a sibling publication, reports that Goldman Sachs's lobbying costs rose roughly 37 percent in the second quarter of 2010 as it dealt with an SEC civil suit and financial services reforms. Goldman already has spent more in the first half of 2010--$2.73 million--than it did in all of 2009, according to The NLJ. (Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher will get a small piece of that; the firm has submitted lobbying bills totaling $20,000.)

Toyota also increased its activity given a series of bills addressing motor vehicle safety in the midst of a massive recall crisis, The NLJ reports. The firms racking up lobbying billables for their Toyota work including Foley & Lardner and Holland & Knight. The NLJ reports those firms earned $70,000 and $50,000, respectively, during the second quarter of 2010. Toyota detailed $1.6 million in lobbying bills during that time frame.

Not surprisingly, embattled British oil giant BP also increased the amount it spends to lobby Congress by 6 percent in the second quarter of this year. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr is one of BP's litigation and lobbying advisers, while other firms with lobby shops like Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman have been hired by companies with links to the ongoing spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

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