Those Atlanta law firms that set up shop during the Carter administration won't be headed back for the Georgia hills when the Reagan administration breezes into town. Quite the contrary, Haas Holland, a prominent Atlanta firm, formally opened a Washington office with a Florida firm Nov. 13 -- after the 1980 election results were in.
The firms are part of a national trend that has little to do with who occupies the White House or where he's from, according to Terence Adamson, who came to Washington with the Carter crowd and now heads the Washington office of Hansell, Post, Brandon & Dorsey. The Washington offices are here to represent clients before regulatory and other government agencies, not to grease the back alleys of power, he says, and, in that regard, what you know is more important than who you know.
Not, of course, that knowing the right people hurts. Even Adamson, who worked under former attorney general Griffin B. Bell and stayed at the Justice Department for a while after Bell left, admits that there's a "psychological edge" to being a political insider. But he says that what's really in demand is Washington experience -- the ability to analyze a Washington problem and know how to solve it.
Thus the staying power of those who are no longer on the inside: Haas Holland (full name Haas, Holland, Lipshutz, Levison & Gilbert) has former White House counsel Robert J. Lipshutz. Domestic adviser Stuart E. Eizenstat, who came from the Atlanta firm of Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy, may go back, though he's looking at other Washington offers. Bell and Carter intimate Charles Kirbo are both with King & Spalding in Atlanta, handy to advise the firm's Washington office. Presidential assistant Jack Watson likely also would be welcome back at King & Spalding if he doesn't pursue political goals in Georgia.
Adamson says he has talked to plenty of lesser figures in the administration and thinks the best will have no trouble finding an outlet for their Washington expertise.
"I'd like to hire some," he said. "There's a lot of talent out there."