“Spotlight On...” was fortunate to speak with Mark Hopson, Managing Partner of Sidley's Washington, D.C. office. Mark is also global coordinator of the firm’s White Collar: Government Enforcement and Litigation group. He shared with us thoughts on his tenure with Sidley and the impressive combination of services the D.C. office offers clients.
You have worked in the Washington office since 1985. What has changed and what is the same?
It has been a while. I was the very first general litigation associate hired in our Washington office. Carter Phillips [Chair of the firm’s Executive Committee and managing partner of the Washington, D.C. office from 1995 to 2012] recruited me while he was still a senior associate.
At that time, Washington had three very strong, and well established, practices with their roots in Chicago: transportation regulatory, energy and telecommunications. All three of those practices are still thriving. What is different is that we have been able to take those foundational practices and build out an office that provides the full complement of Washington-based legal services to our clients.
How is the work we do in Washington distinctive?
The partners in Washington have built practices that are capable of responding to all the critical federal regulatory and enforcement issues that impact our clients. Among other things, this includes leading practices in securities regulation, financial regulation, environmental law, trade, intellectual property, government strategies and life sciences.
As you know, we recently celebrated our 50th anniversary in Washington, and I am comfortable saying that we have a D.C.-based regulatory and litigation practice that is equal to or better than any of the Washington-based firms. We are also one of the largest firms in Washington. With our partners’ substantive knowledge and industry experience, we are able not only to provide service to clients here in Washington but we also open doors to clients for the firm’s other offices around the world.
How important is the global component for lawyers in D.C.?
Well, let me answer that with a personal anecdote: in the last 12 months, I have made multiple trips to locations in Europe, the Middle East and China to attend client meetings. That is not an uncommon situation for our lawyers in D.C. The ability to serve clients on a global basis is critical.
What is the culture like in the Washington office? Is your modus operandi different?
Our office is on K Street, just two blocks from the White House, and living and working in the capital is different from living in Chicago or New York. But there is no difference between the culture of the firm here as compared to any of the firm’s other offices. We have been careful in hiring – both laterally and otherwise – to look for people who fit within the culture that we want to sustain. At the end of the day, all our lawyers work to preserve that culture, which allows us to provide an extraordinary level of quality and service to our clients.
Washington’s role in pro bono and community service is rather remarkable. Why is that?
It is true that we do more than our share of pro bono legal work and related service to the community here in Washington. (Editor’s note: the D.C. office is home to 19 percent of the firm’s U.S. lawyers, but provided 35 percent of the firm’s total U.S. pro bono hours last year.) But the firm as a whole has made commitments to the American Bar Association and other organizations, and we are proud to help meet those promises. One factor that may account for our larger-than-average pro bono contribution is that a large percentage of the lawyers in Washington are litigators; this means there is never a shortage of pro bono opportunities.