Shaw Pittman plans merger and LA office

Washington DC firm Shaw Pittman has launched a three-pronged attack on the US legal market.

The high-tech industry specialist will merge with fellow Washington practice Fisher Wayland Cooper Leader & Zaragosa and open its first west coast office in Los Angeles in March.

The merger with Fisher Wayland is effective from 1 March and will add 35 lawyers to the 330-lawyer Shaw Pittman.

The two firms shared a client in XM Satellite Radio, and Fisher Wayland was attracted to Shaw Pittman because it was the most aggressive Washington high- tech firm, says Fisher Wayland partner Richard Zaragosa.

According to London partner Andrew Dunlop the two-partner Los Angeles office “will roll out using the same model we have used in London, concentrating on core business”.

Dunlop adds: “We are known for technology and it is technology that is driving the opening of a Los Angeles office.”

And in a surprising move, Shaw Pittman becomes the first Washington-based firm to match the rocketing associate salaries in New York and California, increasing salaries for newly-qualifieds from $102,000 (£63,750) to $125,000 (£78,130) from 1 March.

Colin Fergus, co-principal of Fergus Partnership Consulting, says the move is “pretty amazing” for a Washington firm.

“It is one thing to do that in New York where you can get New York hours at New York rates, and in California where the high-tech firms have investment programmes with clients and take equity and have a different way of making money,” he says.

Shaw Pittman's London office has moved to new premises at Tower 42. The firm has taken the 23rd floor of the building in Old Broad Street.