Having joined large national law firm Kutak Rock LLP and begun the process of winding down their 9-year-old practice, veteran Spokane bond attorneys Roy Koegen and Mary Edwards have their sights set on building a large branch with a broader range of legal focuses.
Koegen says Kutak Rock, which is based in Omaha, Neb., and has 17 offices with a total of 500 attorneys, plans to hire 10 to 15 lawyers as an initial build-out of the firm’s Spokane office. The firm has begun interviewing people here, he says, and some attorneys working in other Kutak Rock offices are considering transferring to the new branch.
Edwards, who along with Koegen is now a partner in Kutak Rock, says the firm employs two paralegals and likely will hire four or five additional support staff as part of the ramp-up.
The Kutak Rock office here is located in the former Koegen Edwards LLP offices—a 3,000-square-foot space on the 17th floor of the Bank of America Financial Center, at 601 W. Riverside downtown. Koegen says the company is negotiating a lease on a larger space. He declines for now to disclose the proposed location, but he says it’s in the city’s core and has roughly double the space of the current office. He expects to move yet this year.
“We’ll have different areas of expertise here,” Koegen says. “That’s our goal.”
The two Spokane attorneys started Koegen Edwards in 2005 and focused the practice on providing bond counsel, known also as public finance. Koegen declines to disclose the names of the firm’s clients, but he says they include primarily local governments and banks that handle bond work.
Edwards says the client mix varies dramatically from year to year, but in a typical year, about 30 percent of its work is the Spokane area, another 20 percent is in the rest of Washington state, and the balance is elsewhere. Most of its out-of-state clients are in the western U.S., though the firm currently is doing work for a client in the U.S. territory of Guam.
Kutak Rock has a strong presence in public finance, with one-fifth of its attorneys focused on that field. Among the 100 bond lawyers are nine tax attorneys who provide guidance on bond work. Koegen also declines to disclose the names of Kutak Rock clients, but he says the list includes hundreds of local governments, a number of large airports, and regional investment banking firms.
Also, he says, Kutak Rock has carved a niche in representing charter schools, which Koegen notes could be beneficial in Spokane and other parts of Washington since the 2012 passage of state Initiative 1240 that allows the development of charter schools here. The firm is working on one charter school project in Spokane currently, he says.
Other areas in which Kutak Rock practices, Koegen says, include corporate law, real estate, litigation, and government. The Spokane office could be adding expertise in some of those areas in coming months, he says. Eventually, he adds, the firm might add a small office in Seattle as well.
Both Koegen and Edwards say they began looking at affiliating with a larger firm earlier this year.
“Our bandwidth was full,” he says. “We’re now responding to things we wouldn’t have responded to before.”
He says they were close to joining a different, national firm, but during discussions, they discovered a major conflict of interest regarding clients the respective firms represented.
Koegen says he was having a casual conversation with a longtime friend who’s a partner at Kutak Rock about their desire to join a larger firm, and the friend suggested they become part of Kutak Rock. The two firms struck a deal quickly and finalized it five weeks after that initial conversation.
The friend, Patrick Ray, is managing partner of Kutak Rock’s office in Scottsdale, Ariz., and sits on the firm’s nine-person executive committee. He says the expansion into Spokane makes sense for a number of reasons. The areas of law in which Koegen and Edwards practice match well with what the firm does, Ray says, and while the firm has clients in this region, it didn’t have a physical presence here.
“If you look at a map, the only place we didn’t have an office is the Pacific Northwest,” Ray says.
He also says Kutak Rock typically does well in mid-sized cities such as Spokane. While it has offices in major cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles, it competes well in places like Wichita, Kan., and Little Rock, Ark., he contends.
“We can bring a product they might not have at a pricing structure they’re used to,” Ray says.
Edwards says Kutak Rock has a culture that she and Koegen found appealing, including a strong presence of female attorneys in the partner ranks. She says 29 percent of the firm’s partners are women, whereas nationally, women account for only 15 percent of all law firm partners.
Including associates as well as partners, 47 percent of the attorneys at Kutak Rock are women, minorities, or both, she says.
This marks the second time Koegen has been involved in a large national firm’s entry into the Spokane market. An attorney here since 1978, Koegen was involved in opening a Spokane office with Perkins Coie LLP, of Seattle, in 1990. Perkins Coie, which currently has 19 offices in the U.S. and Asia, operated here until 2005.
Koegen started his career in San Francisco and moved to Spokane in 1978. He has a bachelor’s degree from Gonzaga University and earned his law degree at the University of California, Hastings School of Law.
Edwards’ primary focus since she began practicing in 1991 has been state and municipal finance transactions. She also practiced for six years as bank counsel in secured transactions. She has served as bond counsel, underwriter’s counsel, bank counsel and borrower’s counsel, and has provided advice to clients on finance, regulatory, and general governance issues.
She earned her bachelor’s degree from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and her law degree from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, in Cleveland.
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