Tribune 10 - A look behind the books

July 8, 2003
Reprinted with permission from the Connecticut Law Tribune, Vol. 29; No. 27; by Thomas Scheffey
Edward Wood "Jack" Dunham wants to be very clear: he's not Wiggin & Dana's managing partner. Yes, he chairs the New Haven-based firm's five-lawyer executive committee, but he is still pursuing a full-time practice in the firm's busy franchise law sector.
 
That group is burgeoning along with globe-spanning client Subway Inc., which has ties with Wiggin & Dana dating from the Milford beginnings of the founders' company, Doctors Associates Inc.
 
Dunham, mildly self-deprecating about his role as a long-range planner, describes the firm's purposeful path as remaining "increasingly idiosyncratic." It won't soon head off and pursue a big merger, he made clear. "We're not going to become a super-regional firm or a national firm wannabe. I personally, and we institutionally, just don't believe what has become the common wisdom"--that profit lies in creating a nationwide constellation of merged firms.
 
Dunham admitted that he thinks "all the time" about the ingredients that make up a "genuine partnership of learned professionals." With examples, he explained that national clients have found their way to Wiggin on the basis of reputation and relationships. He cited white-collar criminal defense lawyer David Fein, in the firm's Stamford office, for his "astonishingly high-quality practice," which has included work for the U.S. Justice Department's Joel Klein on the Microsoft antitrust case, as well as the tough--and doomed--task of defending the document-shredding case against Arthur Andersen in Houston last year, at the defense table with colorful Texas lawyer Rusty Hardin.
 
Fein and other Wiggin lawyers also represented national truck tire giant Bandag in a private anti-trust case against Michelin, which was partially settled in Des Moines, Iowa. Bandag, Dunham said, has become a repeat customer, retaining Wiggin in matters including "franchise and dealer issues, which my colleague [Joseph] Schumacher deals with in our Philadelphia office." That office, now two years old, was created after Dunham and Schumacher collaborated on the American Bar Association Franchise Law Committee.
 
On the health care front, the firm is developing a key niche in Health Insurance Privacy and Portability Act [HIPAA] compliance. One recent client is Ahold, the Dutch parent company of Stop & Shop, which requires HIPAA counsel due to the pharmacies throughout its supermarkets.
 
The firm also recently added Bayer as a key client, defending it in litigation over the cholesterol-reducing drug Baycol. Dunham noted that one member of its Baycol team is a fifth-year associate, who received both medical and law degrees from Yale, simultaneously. "He and one of my partners have gotten very involved in the medical work in Germany, and are over there now," said Dunham in an April interview. The night before, international transactional lawyer James F. Farrington Jr., of the firm's Stamford office, had just called from Sweden before heading to Cambridge, England, on client business.
 
In the states, Dunham said, geography has not been a major barrier to developing client relationships. "If we can get exposed to clients," he said, "the rest of it takes care of itself.