Akin Gump merges with land use firm

Washington DC firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld is merging with a niche land use and planning practice in a move that will increase its projects team to more than 60 lawyers.

Cutler & Stanfield is one of the biggest environmental and project development law groups in the US, and its 24 lawyers will form the bulk of Akin Gump’s new environment, land use and project-development team.

They will work closely with the firm’s existing project finance and infrastructure-development practice, which will do the transactional work to provide a seamless service for projects clients.

Cutler & Stanfield focuses on large-scale developments; for example it conducted the negotiating and structuring of the redevelopment of Denver International Airport.

But founding partner Eliot Cutler says it lacked the financing capability demanded by clients.

Cutler says: “We see clients wanting to deal with one law firm from beginning to end on a major project. We had no project finance expertise, and [Akin Gump] had no environmental and land use practice.

“We’re of the view that it’s going to be increasingly difficult for specialist law firms to survive in a market where clients prefer to deal with only one law firm.”

Cutler & Stanfield is especially well known for multi-billion-dollar airport and highway development projects, and environmental cleanup and redevelopment programmes.

Clients include General Electric Company, Walt Disney Corporation, the City of Los Angeles, the City of Chicago and the states of Maryland and Indiana.

The firm has offices in Denver and Washington, and so adds its Denver capability to Akin Gump, as well as nine partners. Cutler & Stanfield partner Jeffrey Stanfield will be in charge of that office.

Akin Gump head of project finance and infrastructure development Richard Gittleman says: “Cutler & Stanfield are very well known in the airport business, and we’re specifically seeking to add on specialist practice areas. This was very opportunistic: we weren’t looking for an airport practice but it came to our attention, and it seemed like a natural acquisition.”