Patton Boggs LLP History

Address:
2550 M St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20037
U.S.A.

Telephone: (202) 457-6000
Fax: (202) 457-6315

Website:
Partnership
Founded: 1962 as Barco, Cook and Patton
Employees: 400
Sales: $202.1 million (2004)
NAIC: 541110 Offices of Lawyers

Company Perspectives:

At Patton Boggs, we see opportunities where others see problems. Our ability to see things differently, viewing issues in light of a broader range of possibilities, allows us to translate client ideas and problems into creative results and solutions.

Key Dates:

1962:
Barco, Cook and Patton is formed.
1963:
George Blow joins firm.
1966:
Thomas Hale Boggs, Jr., joins firm.
1973:
Firm adopts Patton, Boggs and Blow name.
1993:
Blow retires.
1997:
Stuart Pape is named managing partner.

Company History:

Patton Boggs LLP is a Washington, D.C.-based full-service law firm best known for its lobbying prowess. The firm employs about 400 attorneys and maintains offices in Anchorage, Dallas, Denver, northern Virginia, and Doha, Qatar. Patton Boggs takes a generalist approach, bringing together teams with diverse expertise to serve client needs. Rather than organizing the firm by departments, Patton Boggs relies on what it calls "relatively porous practice groups." These include Antitrust; Appropriations; Bankruptcy and Restructuring; Business; Defense and National Security; Energy; Environmental, Health and Safety; Food and Drug; Health Care; Intellectual Property; International Trade and Transactions; Litigation and Dispute Resolution; Mergers and Acquisitions; Municipal Representation; Political Law; Public Policy and Lobbying; Tax; Telecommunications and Technology; and Transportation and Infrastructure. Patton Boggs is headed by Chairman Thomas Hale Boggs, Jr., regarded as one of Washington's foremost lobbyists and one of the nation's top lawyers. Well into his 70s, founder James Richard Patton, Jr., remains active in the firm.

Firm Foundation: Early 1960s

James Patton was born in Durham, North Carolina, in 1928. After receiving an undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina, he earned a law degree from Harvard University in 1951. He then became an embassy attaché and special assistant assigned to Indochina, although it is now widely known that he was actually working for the Central Intelligence Agency. Patton relocated to Washington in 1954, and was employed by the Office of National Estimates for two years before joining the prestigious Washington, D.C., law firm of Covington & Burling where he became well versed in the practice of international law. In 1962 he decided to strike out on his own, creating a partnership with a pair of attorneys, Charles D. Cook & J.W. "Jim" Barco, to form a general practice focusing on international law called Barco, Cook and Patton. Patton and Barco had known each other from their days at Harvard Law School and had later worked together on a treaty between India and Pakistan. Barco had also served as the deputy to Henry Cabot Lodge, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and had worked with Cook, who was counselor to the U.N. mission. While Patton set up shop in Washington at 1717 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Barco and Cook elected to remain in New York City to practice.

Within a few years the New York and Washington division of the partnership proved unwieldy, leading to the departure of Barco and Cook, but in the meantime Patton recruited other attorneys who became key partners of the firm. In October 1963 he hired George Blow, a friend from his days at Covington & Burling. Blow had made a name for himself by successfully arguing in 1957 the Double Jeopardy case (Green v the United States) before the United States Supreme Court, in which a man accused of murder was tried for the same crime twice in violation of the Fifth Amendment. The addition of Blow necessitated a further name change to the firm, which now became Barco, Cook, Patton and Blow.

"Tommy" Boggs Joins Firm in 1966

Attorney Chuck Verrill joined the firm as an associate, then in April 1966 Patton added two more young attorneys to the small firm: Joseph L. Brand and "Tommy" Boggs. Along with his sister, radio and television political correspondent Corinne "Cokie" Roberts, and Barbara Sigmund who became mayor of Princeton, New Jersey, Boggs grew up immersed in politics. His father, Thomas Hale Boggs, Sr., had become a Democratic congressman from Louisiana at the age of 26 in 1940 and rose through the ranks of House leadership and the Democratic party, becoming chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 1958. As a result, the Boggs' home was often frequented by Washington's elite and the Boggs' children were not surprised to have such dinner guests as Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy, and longtime Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn. The younger Boggs earned his undergraduate and law degrees at Georgetown University. In 1961 he took a position as an economist for the Joint Economic Committee for the U.S. Congress, then in 1965 became special assistant to the director of the Office of Emergency Planning. In 1966 Boggs decided to begin practicing law and interviewed with a large number of Washington-area firms. One of the largest, Hogan and Hartson, offered him a job, but Boggs turned it down in favor of going to work for the much smaller firm of Barco, Cook, Patton and Blow. Less than two years later Barco and Cook departed and the young guns became partners, leading to yet another name change for the firm: Patton, Blow, Verrill, Brand and Boggs.

In these early years, the firm's international clients included Pakistan, Turkey, Uganda, Ireland, and Norway. It was because many of these international clients required advocates in Washington in order to achieve their ends that the firm became involved in lobbying. Boggs was well suited to the task. Not only did he know many leading politicians through his father, his mentor during his tenure on Capital Hill had been Clark Clifford, one of the most famous capital insiders, adept at backroom machinations and cutting deals over drinks and cigars. The old boy network would give way to the era of the super lobbyist, as epitomized by Tommy Boggs. But first he would try his hand at running for office. In 1970 he ran as a Democrat in Maryland for the U.S. House of Representatives but lost. His father, in the meantime, continued to win reelection in Louisiana. He was so well entrenched that he ran unopposed in 1972 and was on the verge of becoming the House speaker. Campaigning for a fellow Democratic congressman in Alaska, the senior Boggs was flying from Anchorage to Juneau when his plane disappeared. It was never found, he was presumed dead, and his wife, Lindy, was elected to replace him--a seat she held until her resignation in 1991.

The firm steadily picked up clients in the late 1960s and early 1970s and added to its roster of attorneys. Timothy May, who would become managing partner, joined in March 1969 and two years later made partner, necessitating yet another name change. But the firm name of Patton, Boggs, Blow, Verrill, Brand & May was clearly too cumbersome, and in 1973 the partners agreed to shorten the name, retaining only the most senior partners. The result was Patton, Boggs and Blow, a name the firm kept for the next quarter-century. The small firm also attempted to expand beyond Washington, D.C., during this period, launching one-man operations in Mexico City and Tehran, but both closed down within a year.

A major project during the early 1970s that solidified Patton Boggs's public policy lobbying practice was the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, for which it represented both oil companies and construction companies. The election of Democrat Jimmy Carter to the White House in 1976 was also a boon to Patton Boggs's lobbying efforts, as Tommy Boggs forged his reputation as a Democratic rainmaker. A major success in the second half of the 1970s was the firm's work on behalf of a struggling Chrysler, for which Patton Boggs played a key role in arranging a government bailout. During the late 1970s the firm also participated in high-profile, and highly partisan, tax bills.

By 1980 Patton Boggs employed 38 attorneys. In that year Carter was defeated for the presidency by Ronald Reagan, and for a brief time it appeared that lobbyists would have a difficult time finding corporate clients. The prevailing assumption was that a Reagan administration would be so friendly toward business interests that lobbyists would be unnecessary. But control of the Congress remained contentious and those who believed that lobbyists no longer had a role to play were quickly disabused of that notion. Patton Boggs steadily added to its lobbying business and as it became involved in different public policy areas it identified talented government attorneys working in specific fields and began hiring them to assemble a roster of experts, an approach that proved key to the firm's long-term growth. In little more than a year Patton Boggs employed 72 attorneys. Also during the early 1980s, Patton Boggs again attempted to expand geographically. It opened an office in London, but it closed within four years. The firm also established an office in Saudi Arabia to serve a client building a hospital in the country, but once the project was successfully launched, the office was closed in the mid-1980s. Later in the 1980s Patton Boggs opened an office in Baltimore, Maryland, to accommodate a partner who needed to work close to home for personal reasons, but because Baltimore was so close to Washington the new office added nothing to the firm's prospects. A more legitimate attempt at regional expansion was the 1988 acquisition of a Greensboro, North Carolina-based law firm: Foster, Conner, Robson & Gumbiner. Some of the partners were prominent in Republican politics, helping to mitigate the sense that Patton Boggs was a Democratic shop. Once again, however, the attempt to establish a foothold outside of the Beltway failed and the Greensboro and Raleigh, North Carolina offices were eventually closed in the 1990s.

Helping Defeat 1990s Healthcare Reforms

The 1990s saw another Democrat, Bill Clinton, take the presidency but, while the White House may have been in the hands of the Democrats, control of the Congress was swinging to the Republicans. Thus, Patton Boggs made a concerted effort to bring in more Republican-connected attorneys to bolster its lobbying business. Democratic ties not withstanding, Patton Boggs played a major role in thwarting Clinton's effort to implement healthcare reforms, a defeat that crippled his presidency and led to the Democrats losing the House to Republicans in 1994. Patton Boggs's clients in this fight included the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, opposed to the concept of limiting the amount a victim could collect in a malpractice lawsuit, and The National Association of Life Underwriters and the National Association of Health Underwriters, threatened by the idea of mandatory alliances, which would eliminate their lucrative middleman role because consumers would now be able to negotiate directly with purchasing alliances. Despite overwhelming public support for the proposals, all of the reforms were successfully bottled up in committee and no bills were ever passed. According to a 1995 Washington Monthly article, "Not only did [Patton Boggs's] victory confirm their reputation, but the total defeat of all health reform also means that the issue will come around again, and with it, another rush of clients paying top prices to have Patton Boggs on their side. Healthcare reform took good care of Patton Boggs. The firm's total revenue shot up 25 percent in two years, from $49 million to $61 million."

Other major work for Patton Boggs during the 1990s was a private sector effort to eliminate the 20-year-ban on the export of Alaska North Slope crude oil; retailers' efforts to block quotas on textile imports; the advertising industry's fight to ward off tax increases; and efforts related to the passage of major international trade agreements, GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). The 1990s also saw organizational changes at Patton Boggs. In 1992 the firm hired Dallas-area attorneys with financial service expertise and opened a Dallas office. Blow retired in 1993; later in the decade the firm assumed the name of Patton Boggs LLP. In 1997 the firm's current managing partner, Stuart Pape, took charge; he had joined Patton Boggs in 1980 after working for the Food and Drug Administration, an example of the firm luring away attorneys who possessed inside knowledge about specific subjects. In addition to Dallas, Patton Boggs opened offices in Anchorage and Denver.

In 2000 Patton Boggs opened an office in northern Virginia to become involved in the high-tech boom the area was enjoying. The timing proved unfortunate, however, as the bottom fell out of the industry. Nevertheless, the firm retained the office and added the intellectual property lawyers required by the practice. By now Patton Boggs had effectively shed its reputation as a Democratic-leaning firm, with at least as many Republican public policy lawyers as Democrats. During the contentious 2000 presidential election, in fact, Patton Boggs was on the Supreme Court brief for George W. Bush. Even Tommy Boggs, a lifelong Democrat, admitted to the Denver Business Journal in 2001 that "When the Republicans take over the White House, the business community basically thinks they can get a lot done. ... So we've always done better as a law firm ... when the Republicans control the White House."

Patton Boggs continued to hire high-profile, politically connected attorneys in the new century, including Clinton confidant Lanny Davis, national counsel to the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign Ben Ginsberg, and former Democratic Senator John Breaux. Entering 2005 Patton Boggs employed 400 attorneys and generated revenues in excess of $200 million a year. Of that amount $65.8 million came from lobbying-related fees, making Patton Boggs the highest grossing lobbying firm according to an annual survey conducted by ALM's Influence newsletter.

Principal Competitors: Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, LLP; Cassidy & Associates; Hogan & Hartson; Arnold & Porter LLP.

Further Reading:

  • Abramson, Jill, "Acquisition by Prominent Washington Law Firm Shows Building Political Links Is a Subtle Craft," Wall Street Journal, June 22, 1988, p. 1.
  • Fletcher, Amy, "Q&A with Patton Boggs' Partner," Denver Business Journal, May 18, 2001, p. A3.
  • Franklin, Daniel, "Tommy Boggs and the Death of Health Care Reform," Washington Monthly, April 1995, p. 31.
  • Reilly, Ann M., "Washington's Super Lobbyists," Dun's Business Month, August 1983, p. 30.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 71. St. James Press, 2005.