Cooley, the Silicon Valley-based law firm best known for technology and life sciences work, moved into the Warner Building in downtown D.C. last month — a space once occupied by Howrey, the esteemed Washington law firm that dissolved and filed for bankruptcy in 2011.
The move is more than a little symbolic. If Howrey was the quintessential Washington law firm, building its roots around the federal government, Cooley represents a different kind of law firm in the nation’s capital, approaching the competitive legal industry here with a different set of goals in mind.
Cooley has no designs on becoming an all-purpose regulatory law firm that can navigate every federal agency under the sun, which was the formula for many home-grown D.C. firms. There are some legal specialties tied to Washington that aren’t on Cooley’s to-do list: a First Amendment practice, a Federal Election Commission group or a traditional environmental practice focused on coal and railroads, to name a few. Nor does Cooley have a federal lobbying group, a staple at many Washington firms.
“Our thesis is more specific,” Ryan Naftulin, partner in charge of the firm’s D.C. office. “Our goal isn’t to become a monolithic D.C. regulatory firm.”
Instead, Cooley credits much of its growth in the region to getting “in” with technology giants in their early days, and continuing to counsel the companies as their legal worries evolve. The firm, for example, has represented global tech company Nvidia since the early 1990s when the company was going through funding cycles and developing its intellectual property portfolio. Cooley later handled the company’s initial public offering in 1999, and continues to represent Nvidia as the company deals with more sophisticated legal issues, such as how to protect intellectual property rights abroad and deal with trade issues with foreign-based manufacturing. The firm has also handled IPOs for Yelp, Zynga, Amgen and Genentech, and defended Facebook in patent litigation brought by Yahoo after Facebook’s IPO.