WASHINGTON’S BOUTIQUE LOBBY shops are thriving as a direct result of the major changes that have plagued K St. powerhouses in recent years, according to The Hill. In just the first two quarters of 2014, for example, there have been 39 law firm mergers and acquisitions—the total for all of 2010. In the past year, Greenberg Traurig has acquired almost 40 attorneys and lobbyists, including thirteen from rival Dickstein Shapiro. And Patton Boggs, which has also been losing partners and top lobbyists to other firms such as Holland & Knight and Wilmer Hale, recently announced their merger with Squire Sanders.
Smaller lobby firms are finding success in part by steering clear of this chaos, and by specializing in niche practices that work underneath top tier issues. They’re also benefiting from K St.’s culture of defections and “poaching of talent,” as The Hill describes it, which opens space for more specialized lobby shops to grab hold of significant clients such as Facebook, Google, Verizon, and Goldman Sachs. These major changes, which are supposed to reward the K St. behemoths, are ironically creating room for start-ups to get a stronger foothold.
But while the lobbying landscape is undoubtedly changing at a rapid pace, and the trend seems to indicate that smaller shops are profiting as a consequence, the question remains whether this is sustainable. Once DC’s major players begin to settle down, presumably these unique opportunities will begin to fade. In the meantime, however, there’s yet more poaching to do.