Van Ness Feldman's seat in the nation's capital gives it prime access to the governmental, regulatory, and compliance aspects of environmental and energy law. Combined with its Pacific Northwest presence in Seattle, this mid-sized law and policy firm is a formidable force to be reckoned with.
DC Origins and Seattle Merger
From its beginnings, Van Ness Feldman was destined to be a major DC player. The firm was founded in 1977 by four staff members of Legislative and Executive branches: William Van Ness, Jr., Howard Feldman, Lynn Sutcliffe and Charlie Curtis. Originally known as Van Ness, Feldman, Curtis and Sutcliffe, the firm retains the names of the two out of four founders who remained with the firm: Van Ness, an environmental lawyer and former Chief Counsel to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Feldman, onetime Chief Counsel to the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Committee on Government Operations. The firm is proud to count U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew among its alums; Lew was a partner from 1988 to 1993. The firm more recently continued its streak of federal liaisons with the 2013 addition of former U.S. Congressman Norm Dicks and the 2015 hiring of Former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, both of whom serve as Senior Policy Counsel.
In 1989, the firm opened a second office in Seattle when founder Van Ness, a native of Washington State, decided to return there. The firm's Seattle presence grew with a February 2012 merger with GordonDerr LLP, a small but well-known Seattle firm focusing on real estate, civil litigation, land use, and water law.
Energy and Environmental Powerhouse
Van Ness Feldman has racked up an impressive number of accolades in a relatively short time. Deemed "one of the largest and most highly regarded energy regulatory practices in the United States" by Chambers, the firm has received local, national, and global recognition by the prestigious publication. Additionally, the firm houses 31 "Best Lawyers in America" and 24 Super Lawyers, it is one of only three top-tier firms in Energy: Transaction & Regulatory according to Legal 500, and it was named a top firm in the U.S. for emissions trading markets by Environmental Finance.
Van Ness is home to one of the largest gas and electric practices in the country and was one of the first firms to have major climate change and gas emission regulatory practices. The firm helps clients like Toyota North America Inc., American Electric Power Inc., Puget Sound Energy Inc., Air Products & Chemicals Inc., the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, the University of Washington, and Houston natural gas energy company Kinder Morgan Inc. navigate the ins and outs of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Environmental Protection Agency compliance, among others.
While we are still waiting for The Jetsons-style flying cars, Van Ness Feldman can at least brag that it was part of the aquatic car movement. The firm helped Gibbs Technologies, a novel sports vehicles manufacturer exclusively devoted to developing amphibious vehicles, achieve marine vehicle classification for two of its new products in order to comply with EPA emission standards. The vehicles-the Quadski, a hybrid ATV/personal water craft and the Phibian, a larger "amphitruck"-were both profiled in The New York Times.
Redefining the Clean Water Act
Van Ness wrote a key amicus brief on behalf of the hydroelectric industry in the Supreme Court case Los Angeles Flood Control District v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. (2013), which redefined the Clean Water Act. The case began when theNRDC sued the Los Angeles County Flood Control District, charging that the pollutants released by its municipal separate storm sewer system were in violation of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit regulations. On appeal, the Supreme Court overturned the previous Ninth Circuit Court ruling and affirmed the position advocated by Van Ness Feldman, declaring that hydropower dams are not necessarily under NPDES permit jurisdiction.
1050 Thomas Jefferson Street NW
Washington, DC 20007
Phone: (202) 298-1800
Employer Type: Private
Chairman: Richard Agnew
Managing Partners: Nancy McNally (DC office), Jay Derr (Seattle Office)
Recruiting Chair: Britt Fleming
Total No. Attorneys 2017: 85
Summer associate: $2500/week
2 out of 3 (2Ls only) (2016)
Washington, DC (HQ)
Environment & Natural Resources
Government Relations & Policy
Real Estate & Land Use