The Covington & Burling law firm, which moved into its new offices at CityCenter DC last year, hired 20 lawyers from rival McKenna Long & Aldridge to expand its government contracting practice. (Evy Mages/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Covington & Burling has scooped up 20 lawyers from a rival law firm as it moves aggressively to expand its government contracting practice.

The D.C. law firm said Thursday that it hired the 20 lawyers from McKenna Long & Aldridge, which before the move had one of the largest government contracting practices in the country.

The move includes five partners bringing business with some of Washington’s largest defense contractors — including Lockheed Martin, KBR, Northrop Grumman and BAE — with experience working on contract bid protests, procurement fraud investigations, trade secrets, employment agreements and battlefield torts litigation.

Covington said the move is part of a concerted step into the contracting space. Just three years ago, the firm had only about five attorneys dedicated to government contracting, but the move swells its practice’s ranks to more than 40.

“We’re bringing over the core of the government contracts group from McKenna’s D.C. office,” said Fred Levy, who chairs McKenna’s practice and will co-chair Covington’s practice with attorneys Alan Pemberton and Jennifer Plitsch.

The McKenna exodus follows a merger with expansion-minded Denton’s, a multinational firm that has initiated a slew of buyouts in recent years as the industry continues to consolidate.

McKenna representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.