Telecommunications

The advent of new communications technologies over the past 30 years has fundamentally changed the way people in America and globally learn, shop, socialize and conduct business. The pace and scale of these changes, together with convergence of the underlying technologies and markets, has led to unprecedented legal tensions between legacy industries and the new economy, including unsettled regulations and ambiguous legislation. The 21st century will see even more accelerated convergence of the telecom, information technology and energy sectors, with data, voice and media content delivered via circuits and protocols that just a few years ago represented completely separate industries.

The legal skills necessary to navigate this complex technological landscape cannot be acquired overnight. Duane Morris has an array of attorneys with the depth of experience, in both private practice and government, required to counsel and advocate for clients positioned throughout the IT-communications-media spectrum. Whether the matter involves regulation, dispute resolution or corporate transactions, our group of versatile, multi-discipline attorneys can address such commercially complex challenges in an integrated, strategic and efficient manner.

The firm's telecommunications and media clients include telecommunications carriers, broadcast station owners, satellite communications systems, ISPs and Internet content distributors, wireless and optical equipment vendors and service providers, trade associations, financial institutions, venture-backed start-ups, schools and universities, entrepreneurs and government entities.

Regulatory and Advocacy

Duane Morris advises clients on interpretation of FCC and state public utility commission rules and policies affecting their operations, and counsels them on regulatory compliance. The firm's attorneys have extensive experience guiding common carrier, broadcast and corporate user clients on their rights and obligations, as well as preparing regulatory comments, license applications and other filings for submission to the FCC and state commissions.

Our media practice includes the preparation and prosecution of applications for new and modified broadcast facilities, and associated requests for rule waivers. We regularly provide advice regarding compliance issues such as with respect to equal employment opportunity, enhanced underwriting and translator protection. When client matters become contested, Duane Morris attorneys handle all aspects of the ensuing litigation.

The firm's lawyers have been active in telecommunications policy issues for decades and have frequently been called upon to represent the interests of industry participants, corporations and trade associations in connection with rulemakings and other regulatory proceedings. This work has entailed advocacy before the FCC, NTIA, state PUCs, Congress and its oversight committees (principally Judiciary and Commerce), state legislatures, other Executive Branch agencies (for instance, the FTC) and appellate courts throughout the country. Our lawyers have spearheaded the formation of coalitions and associations to advocate industry views and have developed innovative approaches to compliance with, or waiver of, applicable communications regulations when needed to facilitate client business expansion.

Duane Morris attorneys have been involved in nearly every major administrative rulemaking and associated judicial proceeding over the past three decades affecting telephony, Internet services and industrial radio systems, from United States v. AT&T to Iowa Utilities v. FCC and beyond. We have represented clients in connection with spectrum policy and auctions, local number portability, Voice over Internet Protocol regulation, broadcast licensing, wireless rate regulation preemption, cable open access and "net neutrality," alternative rate regulation and price caps, interconnection and interoperability, access charges, unlicensed equipment authorization, mobile and digital television, universal and e-rate services, calling cards, payphone compensation and broadband over power line services.

Duane Morris lawyers are also routinely active in both international radio spectrum regulation and domestic governmental advisory committees. For instance, one of our partners has served as a U.S. Delegate to World Radiocommunication Conferences and has represented client interests in proceedings before the International Telecommunications Union in Geneva. Another was appointed to the North American Numbering Council, an advisory group for the FCC on telephone numbering resource allocation, and the Telecommunications Access Advisory Committee, which fashioned disability access standards for telecommunications and Web services.

Litigation and Enforcement

The firm regularly represents telecommunications and media clients in FCC and state administrative enforcement proceedings, trial and appellate courts, international forums and arbitrations. Our lawyers' experience in regulatory enforcement includes defense of Fortune 500 companies involving alleged violations of communications regulations and federal and state laws, industry participants seeking to protect their intellectual property and standards, and emerging growth companies pursuing licenses or spectrum waivers needed to develop and commercialize new communications technologies.

Duane Morris' federal court experience includes, among others, a landmark 2004 appellate reversal of the FCC's media concentration rules, the first federal litigation challenging the regulated status of VoIP technology, and representation of high-tech trade associations and consumer groups in challenges to the assertion of new FCC regulatory powers. Other issues which Duane Morris attorneys have litigated include local competition rules, reciprocal and intercarrier compensation, access charges and universal service regulations, cable set-top box integration, interconnection and unbundling, the filed rate doctrine, the 1996 Telecommunication Act's rural exemption and FCC-imposed merger conditions and sanctions.

The firm's experience in international forums includes assistance to clients in connection with foreign radio licensing matters, 3G and other wireless network development and negotiations with regulators in the European Union, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.

Transactions

Duane Morris represents corporate clients in transactions involving the purchase or sale of communications properties, mergers and acquisitions, privatizations, project finance and infrastructure development. On behalf of both buyers and sellers, the firm's lawyers have handled multimillion-dollar deals for cellular systems, broadcast stations and cable and satellite providers. We coordinate all aspects of the transactions - from the letter of intent to contract negotiation and drafting, through preparation of applications for regulatory approval to the closing table. Working with public companies, we have handled stock swaps and other arrangements, advised on SEC and FCC issues regarding mergers and acquisitions, and prepared regulatory and risk disclosure materials for proxy statements, 10-K and S-1 filings. Our attorneys also represent venture capitalists, lenders and borrowers on issues relating to investment in and securitization of loans to communications companies.

The firm regularly assists clients in procuring telecommunications network facilities, IRUs and quality-of-service agreements. We frequently handle capacity and infrastructure transactions and supervise negotiation of leases for capacity on educational broadband microwave systems and agreements for radio system rebanding (e.g., 800 MHz). Our attorneys represent clients in negotiating SLAs and other contracts among telecom carriers, corporate users and Web-based content providers. We advise on wholesale and end user service agreements, including Voice over Internet Protocol service agreements, managed service and outsourcing contracts, ATM broadband, fiber optic and wireless network connectivity issues, various interconnection agreements between carriers, and a variety of other corporate and commercial transactions.

International transactions involving telecom entities is another area in which Duane Morris attorneys have significant experience. We've counseled U.S. clients on their foreign telecom holdings and cross-border joint ventures in Europe, represented clients outside the United States regarding telecom transactions and establishing operations in new foreign markets, and worked with foreign governments and corporations on telecommunications privatization transactions and international license tenders.

We have also represented communications providers on rights-of-way and conduit access issues, developed revenue optimization strategies for both incumbent firms and new entrants in shared use of telecom facilities, and negotiated numerous agreements for the lease, sale and multilateral exchange of telecommunications capacity. And when bankruptcy and financial restructuring issues are required to further our clients' business objectives, Duane Morris brings unique experience to the table, counseling creditors, debtors, investors and operators in connection with the FCC aspects of reorganization and adversary proceedings under the Bankruptcy Code.

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Diversity

"In my discussions with Duane Morris leaders, they frequently speak about how diversity within their firm has enabled them to better serve their diverse clients. They understand that investing in diversity is a wise business decision that positions them for the marketplace of the future."

Don Liu
Senior VP, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary
Xerox Corporation

At Duane Morris, achieving diversity is paradoxical. By supporting and celebrating the differences of our attorneys - and the individual strengths that they bring - our firm culture expands, fostering creative solutions for our clients. But diversity at Duane Morris does not mean that we have a certain number of diverse attorneys; true diversity means that it is no longer noteworthy to see diverse lawyers leading our practice groups or managing client relationships. Ascending to positions of leadership and greater responsibility and providing the highest levels of client service is simply what is expected of all our lawyers. Diversity is another strong asset that adds to our collective abilities to meet the needs of our clients.

Our vision of diversity at Duane Morris is to realize an environment in which our lawyers' outstanding qualities are not just measured by ethnicity, race, gender and sexual orientation, but more importantly, that our lawyers are remarkable as excellent attorneys above all else. Only then can we celebrate our differences while focusing on the common pursuit of legal excellence which everyone shares at Duane Morris.

To reach this goal, Duane Morris understands that the familiar diversity strategies and policies that most law firms have are needed. Without demanding results from such policies, most law firms are bound to fail in even achieving numerical hiring and retention goals. Duane Morris has been proactive and ambitious in its efforts to improve diversity at the firm, and has set deadlines for reaching the milestones which mark our progress. To create a more diverse law firm, Duane Morris is:

  • Committed to strategically increasing our diversity levels, which is currently at 10 percent.
  • Bringing together our Diversity Committee and our Hiring and Retention Committee to raise diversity as an important factor in our hiring decisions.
  • Dedicated to improving retention by building upon our monitoring and mentoring program for all diverse associates.

Combining new initiatives with our longstanding diversity efforts, Duane Morris has seen increasingly positive results. In the Minority Law Journal's annual diversity survey of the nation's largest 260 firms, Duane Morris continued to improve its regional and national ranking, rising to number 136 of all firms surveyed. Our strides in Philadelphia are encouraging; in a city known for both the racial diversity of its population and the lack thereof in its law firms, Duane Morris is one of only two law firms to exceed the national average of minority partners at all law firms. Additionally, Duane Morris leads all national law firms based in Philadelphia in the number of Latino partners. Nearly 30 percent of all of our attorneys are women, and more than 20 percent of our partners are women.

In our approach to diversity, progress in racial, gender and cultural diversity cannot be measured in numbers alone. Duane Morris has focused our diversity initiatives on both increasing the number of diverse associates and addressing the challenges diverse attorneys face in building lasting careers and rising to senior and leadership positions. While several of our key practice groups are led by diverse partners and female partners, Duane Morris endeavors to create a culture which will foster a deep pool of such attorneys who can then develop into the firm's future leaders. Duane Morris understands that simply hiring diverse associates will not change the diversity of the firm; Duane Morris is working to mentor and retain diverse associates so that our progress in racial, gender and cultural diversity is also reflected at the highest levels of leadership within the firm.

Our progress on gender diversity has been profound. We have no glass ceilings: women hold positions of leadership at all levels of management at the firm. Women lead a number of our key practice groups, including our Energy, Immigration and International practices, and serve on the firm's Executive Committee. The success of our female attorneys at Duane Morris has not gone unnoticed. Barbara Adams was chair of the firm's Finance Practice until her appointment by Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell to serve as General Counsel of the Commonwealth. In 2004, our longtime General Counsel, Gene E.K. Pratter, was approved by the United States Senate and is now a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Our efforts to improve diversity extend beyond our firm's walls. The chair of our Diversity Committee, Nolan N. Atkinson, Jr., recognized the lack of diversity in Philadelphia's legal community and formed the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group. Nolan now serves as the chair of the organization, a consortium of 25 law firms and corporations that commits to employing at least one diverse first-year law student each as a summer associate. From this program, law students of diverse backgrounds gain access to what was once an exclusive legal community, and now have the opportunity to learn and develop their legal careers with experience at Philadelphia's top law firms.

In addition to our involvement in the Philadelphia area, Duane Morris has increased our presence at national conferences and events focused on diversity. We sponsor the Hispanic National Bar Association and its job fair. Duane Morris is also a longtime supporter and sponsor of the Equality Forum, a national gay and lesbian rights organization. Duane Morris continues to sponsor the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, and is active in other associations of diverse attorneys including: the Asian American Bar Association of the Delaware Valley; the Charles Houston Bar Association; Cuban Bar Association; Korean American Lawyers Association; National American Indian Housing Counsel and the National Bar Association.

The challenge of improving gender, ethnic and cultural diversity at Duane Morris is an ongoing effort that has the support of the entire firm. Duane Morris has been at the vanguard in supporting gender diversity throughout the firm beginning a generation ago. Our diversity programs are leading to similar success in improving racial and national origin diversity at Duane Morris. But even as we share these examples of Duane Morris attorneys and our involvement in numerous legal events, associations and programs for diversity, our hope is that such examples will no longer be necessary to mention in the future. We hope that through our efforts, and the efforts of other law firms, these stories become so common that they are no longer the remarkable accomplishments they are today, but simply routine aspects of the legal world tomorrow.