Covington & Burling on Friday significantly expanded its government contracts practice, announcing it has hired 19 lawyers from McKenna Long & Aldridge.

In an announcement, Covington said it had brought on five partners, including the recent McKenna Long government contracts chairman Fred Levy, among 14 other lawyers. Levy will serve as co-chair of Covington’s government contracts group with existing Covington partners, Alan Pemberton and Jennifer Plitsch.

“What we are bringing is really the bulk of the McKenna Long government contracts practice in D.C.,” said Levy, whose clients have included BP, Wal-Mart and Lockheed Martin. He declined to specify how much revenue the group is bringing to Covington, other than to say “we anticipate that all our existing clients will be coming over to Covington.”

The other lawyers joining Covington from McKenna Long include Ray Biagini, a former leader of McKenna Long’s product liability defense practice, and Michael Scheininger, the former chair of McKenna’s white collar criminal defense practice.

Ellen Musante, chief marketing officer of McKenna Long, wished the departing lawyers well in a statement.

Covington, with nearly 900 lawyers, is a firm at the center of the revolving door between the government and private practice. It staffs former government officials such as Lanny Breuer, the former Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division at the Justice Department, and Stuart Eizenstat, onetime chief domestic policy adviser and executive director of the White House for President Carter. In addition, Eric Holder was once a partner there.

Covington hasn’t been as well known in the government contracts space. Covington’s government contracts co-chair Jennifer Plitsch said that the additions from McKenna Long is in keeping with a commitment the firm made five years ago to build out the practice.

Within three years, the firm had expanded to as many as 20 lawyers through a number of lateral hires, she said. Plitsch called the recent addition “a big step.”

“We at McKenna were one of four Chambers-rated Tier One practitioners in government contracts. The other three were Crowell & Moring, Arnold & Porter and Wiley Rein,” said Levy. “With the size of the group that is going over from McKenna to Covington, I am hopeful that we will immediately become a Chambers-rated Tier One practice.”