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Opening in Washington DC suits some Linklaters partners surprisingly well

Linklaters made a startlingly short announcement last Wednesday confirming the launch of a Washington DC office – a reopening of a base it shut in 2002.

The DC return had been expected and is logical, given the city’s opportunities in antitrust, tax and regulatory work. The statement said little about the purpose and role of the new base, and nothing about who would be staffing it.

Yet it appears the move was motivated as much by personal situations as by business needs.

The Lawyer understands that when tax partners Gordon Warnke and Joseph Pari joined the magic circle firm in New York from collapsed Dewey & LeBoeuf earlier this year, the firm agreed to open a small office in Washington so Pari, who is based in the capital, could reside there. Competition partner Jeffrey Schmidt, meanwhile, has been commuting to Manhattan from DC for years and can now work closer to home.

Pari and Schmidt will be the only two partners out of six lawyers based at the new office on 13th Street, which will focus on tax, antitrust, litigation and financial and contentious regulatory matters.

Equally bizarrely, Linklaters said the New York and Washington outposts would be treated as a single office, with US managing partners Jeff Norton and Conrado Tenaglia running the mega-base. Pari and Schmidt are not officially in charge in DC.

Norton says the launch has “been in the works for a long time” (word had been going round for a year), but adds that having Pari on board is a benefit. There are no headcount targets for the base, although it is expected to be much smaller than New York, which has close to 30 partners.

A source close to the firm says: “It will be very small – basically a satellite of the New York office.”

Norton says the launch is an extension of what the firm already has in the country, but there is no progress on a Houston launch. After joining magic circle rivals Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in the US capital, Linklaters’ US plans may be on the verge of a kick-start.