May 06, 2002

Mr. Smith Goes to Venable; And Mr. Pitts, Too -- Robert Smith, Jim Pitts Are Latest Adds to Venable's Legislative Group

5 min

Pitts joins Jim Burnley in firm's transportation practice – was a partner at Winston & Strawn; Smith comes off Capitol Hill, including last two years as key federal lobbyist for Sun Microsystems

WASHINGTON (May 6, 2002) – Two more well-placed names have been added to Venable's growing legislative/government relations group.

James T. Pitts, who had been a partner at Winston & Strawn in Washington, has joined Venable to work on transportation and financial regulatory matters. He follows James Burnley, another ex-Winston & Strawn partner and former U.S. Secretary of Transportation who came to Venable last month to head up transportation and infrastructure work as part of the firm's expanding legislative group. Mr. Pitts becomes a partner at Venable.

Also joining is Robert L. Smith, who for the past two years served as federal affairs representative in Washington for Sun Microsystems. Sun, one of the largest technology companies in the world, with 40,000 employees worldwide, relied on Mr. Smith for representation on numerous legislative and regulatory matters. Mr. Smith, 30, previously worked on Capitol Hill, including a year as legislative director for Congressman Wes Watkins (Rep.- Oklahoma). Mr. Smith becomes a legislative advisor at Venable.

The additions of Messers. Pitts and Smith bring Venable's legislative group to 18 professionals, from only one member 15 months ago. The practice brings together senior government lawyers, former members of Congress and the U.S. Senate, as well as senior congressional staffers and experienced Washington lobbyists of both parties.

Among the group are former U.S. Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana, former five-term California Congressman and Attorney General Daniel Lungren, and former seven-term New York Congressman Robert Garcia, as well as long-time financial industry lobbyists Tom Quinn and Patrick O'Donnell, and Jeffrey Kurzweil, long regarded as one of the leading tax lobbyists in the District.

While the legislative group works with multiple practices within Venable – litigation, corporate, real estate, tax – it has developed its own core clients, working on matters before Congress, the Senate, federal agencies and regulatory bodies, as well as political action committees and even the Executive branch. Clients of the group include American Airlines, Marriott, Lockheed-Martin, Verizon, Pinkerton, Norfolk-Southern, Goodyear, and Bear Stearns.

"We're certainly enjoying a good build-up, but what has really made the group gel so quickly is how well the legislative work has been integrated into the firm's broad-based representations – it has proven to be a terrific value-added for corporate clients who want a stronger presence before key government constituencies, not only in Washington, but among states as well" said Michael Ferrell, who heads the legislative practice. Mr. Ferrell's own experience on Capitol Hill included a long stint as chief lobbyist for the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Pitts/Smith Backgrounds

Mr. Pitts, 53, spent 15 years at Winston & Strawn, originally working on banking and securities matters, and then developing that firm's transportation work with James Burnley. He frequently represented companies involved in surface and air transportation issues before Congress and federal agencies, including the FAA, FHWA and the NHTSA. He has been instrumental in advancing private sector interests in airport development projects.

Venable is currently engaged in several major transportation initiatives, The firm represents clients on matters relating to the construction of the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge connecting Virginia and Maryland via I-95, and also on the proposed Dulles Airport/Tyson's Corners extension of the Metrorail system in the Washington area. Attorneys in the group are working on large infrastructure projects in Georgia, Maryland and West Virginia.

During the 1980s, Mr. Pitts was with the Office of the Comptroller with the U.S. Treasury Department, including five years as assistant director of the Securities/Corporate Practices Division. Earlier in his career, Mr. Pitts served as acting Securities Commissioner for the state of Arkansas under then-Governor Bill Clinton. He was also a staff member of the House Commerce, Consumer and Monetary Affairs Subcommittee.

Mr. Pitts received his law degree from the University of Arkansas (1973) and an LL.M in Securities Regulation from Georgetown University Law Center in 1984. He earned his B.A. from Hendrix College in Arkansas (1970).

Although only 30, Rob Smith has built a full career in government relations. Following his graduation from the University of Oklahoma in 1994 (as an undergrad he interned for Oklahoma Congressman James Inhofe), Mr. Smith joined the legislative staff of Colorado Congressman Joel Hefley, working on banking, commerce and international trade issues, as well as business related to Congressman Hefley's membership in the Armed Services Committee.

In 1999, Mr. Smith became legislative director for Congressman Wes Watkins, focusing on trade and tax issues related to the congressman's membership on the Ways & Means Committee, as well as his involvement in armed services, international relations, and telecommunications and technology. Mr. Smith wrote or edited all member House floor and Committee statements delivered by Congressman Watkins.

Mr. Smith moved to Sun Microsystems in July 2000, applying his Hill experience on behalf of Sun across multiple issues: domestic and international tax, broadband, employee compensation and benefits, accounting, export controls. He also was active in directing Sun's participation in major technology trade associations, coalitions and congressional working groups, and was the company's prime liaison before key political action committees.

"Jim Pitts and Rob Smith are obviously great additions to our government practice, and they well represent the diversity of the group, which relies on strong legal and industry-specific skills, as well as in-the-trenches experience with the workings of Capitol Hill," said Jeffrey Knowles, who directs the government practice at Venable under which the legislative group is housed. Mr. Knowles is a regulatory specialist who represents clients before the FTC, FDA, FCC and other federal and state agencies.

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One of the American Lawyer’s top 100 law firms, Venable LLP has attorneys practicing in all areas of corporate and business law, complex litigation, intellectual property and government affairs. Venable serves corporate, institutional, governmental, nonprofit and individual clients throughout the U.S. and around the world from its headquarters in Washington, D.C. and offices in California, Maryland, New York and Virginia.