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Fenwick launches D.C. office with Freshfields, Dechert partners

(Reuters) – Weeks after hiring an antitrust partner away from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in Washington, D.C., Fenwick & West on Tuesday announced it was formally setting up shop in the nation’s capital with a new pair of regulatory-focused hires.

Thomas Ensign and Melissa Duffy have joined the Silicon Valley-founded firm’s new Washington, D.C. office as partners, where they’ll work alongside former Skadden counsel Steven Albertson. All three have joined Fenwick’s regulatory group. Ensign is a former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner, while Duffy was a partner at Dechert.

It’s the third office Fenwick has launched within the past five years, and it’s a reflection of how Fenwick’s technology and life sciences clients are facing greater regulatory scrutiny, firm chair Richard Dickson said.

“Our clients need increasingly sophisticated regulatory advice,” Dickson said.

Other law firms have been taking similar steps. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Jenner & Block, Latham & Watkins, Mayer Brown, Shearman & Sterling, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati have added Justice Department and FTC alumni in recent months in anticipation of greater scrutiny from the Biden administration.

Dickson said Fenwick will grow its presence in Washington, but there is no set goal for the number of lawyers that will be based there.

Dickson also held open the possibility of expanding into other markets where there is a strong presence of technology and life sciences clients. Fenwick counts companies like Cisco Systems Inc, Electronic Arts Inc, Facebook Inc and Intuit Inc as clients.

“Technology and life sciences are not as concentrated in places like Silicon Valley as it once was,” Dickson said. “As that grows, we’ll grow along with it.”

The firm has profited from its focus on technology and life sciences clients. Last year, Fenwick’s revenue rose by 15% to $543 million while profits per equity partner grew more than 31% to $2.84 million, The American Lawyer reported in February.

That focus has been “the wind at our sails for our growth,” Dickson said. “Our clients have done very well over the last several years, and we’ve done very well alongside them.”

Ensign specializes in antitrust matters. His profile on Freshfields’ website said he advised on the London Stock Exchange’s $27 billion acquisition of Refinitiv from Thomson Reuters and Blackstone, a deal that closed earlier this year.

Ensign also worked on Intel Corp’s $16.7 billion acquisition of semiconductor manufacturing company Altera Corp, according to Freshfields.

Duffy is a five-year veteran of Dechert, where she advised clients on international trade issues, including trade controls and national security rules for cross-border transactions.

Representatives for Freshfields and Dechert wished Ensign and Duffy well, respectively.