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Vol. 13, No. 48 Week of November 30, 2008
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

AK-WA Connection 2008: Law firm excels for clients, employees

Perkins Coie attorneys draw on Alaska, Washington resources to raise the bar in getting results in and out of Alaska’s court

Rose Ragsdale

For Alaska-Washington Connection

Seattle-based Perkins Coie served Alaska clients for years before it became the first major law firm in the Lower 48 to establish an office in Anchorage in 1977. In the ensuing 30+ years, the firm has continued to deliver stellar legal services in the Last Frontier while developing a top quality work environment for its employees.

With 700 lawyers in 15 offices nationwide, Perkins Coie is known for distinguishing itself both inside and outside the courtroom.

Professionally, the firm maintains an active energy, environmental, natural resources, project permitting and development practice that focuses on the mining, oil and gas, timber and related industries. It also has thriving practices that serve clients in a variety of other industries such as representing Alaska Native corporations and Fortune 500 companies in government contract matters, governmental investigations and labor and employment disputes as well as representing public and private owners, general contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, architects, engineers and consultants in construction matters. The firm also maintains a litigation practice, which includes product liability defense and air crash litigation.

Perkins Coie is rated highly by its clients for the quality of its legal services, according to Eric Fjelstad, Perkins Coie’s managing partner in Anchorage. This strength stems from two key factors: a strong emphasis on quality and service that starts at the top of the firm and permeates throughout, and an extremely collegial culture that emphasizes collaboration in support of client needs.

Premier record in Alaska

In addition, Perkins Coie has been ranked by Chambers USA in the first band for law firms in Alaska for labor law and environmental law for the past five consecutive years.

In fact, a list of the law firm’s caseload reads like a who’s who for Alaska’s business community.

Numerous past cases range from representing Ketchikan Pulp Company through the shutdown and cleanup of its pulping and logging operations to representing the University of Alaska in an overturned arbitration award for the Alaska Community Colleges Federation of Teachers against the university because arbitrator’s decision was in error.

The firm’s current work includes ongoing representation of Coeur Alaska in the development of the proposed Kensington Gold Mine near Juneau and defense of a challenge to its tailings facility in federal courts, as well as representation of North Slope producers on oil and gas matters and efforts to commercialize Alaska’s vast natural gas resources.

So what is the secret of Perkins Coie’s success?

Two things, according to the firm.

“First, we strive for excellence in everything we do. Second, our lawyers understand that our clients’ legal needs are based on their business needs. We take the time to learn our clients’ businesses and industries so we can provide practical advice that will help them achieve their goals,” said Fjelstad.

“We are optimistic about the future of Alaska, and we seek out high-quality attorneys to meet our clients’ growing needs in the energy, mining, construction, litigation and government contracts areas,” he added.

Success starts at home

But in some ways, the real measure of Perkins Coie should be taken inside the firm’s offices and not outside.

For the sixth consecutive year, Perkins Coie was selected in January to be one of Fortune magazine’s “The 100 Best Places to Work For.” This year the firm was ranked 55th, an improvement over a ranking of 64th in 2007.

When the list was announced, Perkins Coie Managing Partner Robert E. Giles said the law firm works hard to recruit talented, dedicated people who provide outstanding service to its clients.

“It is important to us that those people feel that they work in a rewarding environment in which they can grow their careers. This distinction with Fortune magazine is validation of our commitment to providing that environment for our employees,” Giles said.

But recognition doesn’t stop there.

Perkins Coie is regularly recognized for its accomplishments in the legal profession and its commitment to excellent client service. In 2007, the firm was ranked a leader in 11 practices, with No. 1 placements in eight key markets across the country by ChambersUSA. Also, 117 of its attorneys from offices across the United States were selected for inclusion in the 2008 edition of The Best Lawyers in America.

To pick the “100 Best Companies to Work for,” Fortune surveys a minimum of 400 randomly selected employees from each company. The survey asks questions related to their attitudes about the management’s credibility, job satisfaction and camaraderie. Two-thirds of a company’s score is based on survey responses. The other third of the scoring is based on the company’s responses to a culture audit, which includes detailed questions about pay and benefit programs and a series of open-ended questions about hiring practices, methods of internal communications, training, recognition programs and diversity efforts, etc.

Working Mother magazine also singled out Perkins Coie in August for recognition as one of the “2008 Best Law Firms for Women.” Joined by national consulting firm Flex-Time Lawyers LLC, the magazine cited the firm’s commitment to the retention and advancement of women employees.

“Perkins Coie understands that careers should be about choices, not trade-offs. We value the working mother and have worked hard to create an environment in which women can succeed professionally without feeling they have lost personally,” said Theresa Cropper, director of diversity and professional development at Perkins Coie.

“From our flexible options, affinity groups, and mentoring programs to our efforts to advance women to leadership positions within the firm, we are committed to helping our women attorneys successfully navigate their work and family lives,” she added.

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