“It wasn’t the same market we opened in,” Rogan said. He said the Reston office had specialized in communications and mergers and acquisitions. “The landscape of both those sectors changed between 2000 and 2003,” he said.
Rogan said that the firm has not lost any clients as a result of the change and that most clients have been understanding. Skadden, Arps’s decision is only the latest sign of the difficulty law firms have faced with their Northern Virginia offices since the Internet bubble burst. Some major West Coast firms that rushed to Northern Virginia, attracted by the region’s tech industry, have scaled back or closed shop. Other area firms have consolidated operations.
“Skadden was out there in the weeds waiting for the economy to grow up,” said one consultant who specialises in law firms for a Washington executive search firm. “There will be firms that stay out there, but the idea that a law firm was going to have to have a Northern Virginia office to take advantage of the local economy is pretty much a dead letter at this point.”
Despite the tech downturn, some law firms say they remain committed to Northern Virginia. Francis Milone, the chairman of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, said that his firm’s immigration and litigation practices are both “going great guns” in Northern Virginia but that its corporate practice has been relatively slow amid the tech sector’s struggles.