Covington & Burling lured away 20 government contracts lawyers from McKenna Long & Aldridge last May, almost doubling the size of its government contracts practice. The group is still growing.

On Monday, Covington announced the addition of Peter Hutt II, previously a partner at Akin Gump for almost 8 years. In addition to experience in federal government contract and grant matters, Hutt also represents clients in False Claims Act and fraud litigation.

Hutt said he’s been watching Covington’s aggressive growth from a distance: "My perception was the same as probably every other government contracts lawyer in Washington,” he said of Covington’s 20-lawyer hiring spree last year. “It was an eye opener to everyone in the government contracts space.”

Fred Levy, one of the lawyers who came over from McKenna Long, and is now the group’s Co-Chair, told Big Law Business there were 42 or 43 full-time government contracts attorneys last May, but that number is now close to 50, and will likely continue to rise.

Levy cited an increase in compliance-related work for companies doing business abroad; an uptick in False Claims Act cases; increased domestic regulatory burdens, especially in the area of cybersecurity; and foreign military campaigns in the Middle East generally and against ISIS specifically.

“The government continues to be the largest procurer of goods and services in the world,” he said. “There continues to be a lot of enforcement activity. The government remains ever-vigilant about how its dollars are being spent.”

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., Covington had 774 lawyers at the time of the American Lawyer’s 2015 survey, making it the 44th largest firm in the U.S.   It employs former government officials like Lanny Breuer, once the Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division at the Justice Department, and last July, the firm announced it re-hired former Attorney General Eric Holder , who previously worked at Covington for eight years.

Asked about Covington’s courtship of Hutt, Levy said he’d known him for many years. “When it became known to me that Peter might be interested in making a move, we were interested as well,” he said. “I’ve known Peter since before he was at Akin.”

Levy isn’t the only Covington partner who has a long-standing relationship with Hutt. Hutt’s father, Peter Barton Hutt , has been a food and drug lawyer with Covington since 1960. “It’s a pleasure to be at same firm as him,” Hutt said. “When I was a teenager I spent many hours here making copies for my father. I guess Covington was my first employer.”