ALEXANDRIA, VA: Three executives have split from independent public affairs agency The Hawthorn Group to form FM Strategic Communications.FM, which opened its doors June 1, offers a full range of public affairs services, but plans to specialize in litigation support and antitrust issues. Esther Foer, former vice chairman at Hawthorn, presides over FM as president, along with principal John Moore, former SVP of communications at Hawthorn and 14-year veteran of National Journal. Sarah Leer, an SAE at Hawthorn, now serves as account manager. Like most DC firms, Hawthorn found its bottom line severely affected by the September 11 attacks. In January of this year, the 10-year-old, $9 million firm was forced to revisit its business plan in the face of decreasing profits. The agency closed its New York office and eliminated 16 of its 65 positions. In addition to its Virginia headquarters, the firm maintains an Atlanta office. Asked for the reason behind the move, Moore said, "It was just time to move on. We wanted to be entrepreneurs." Foer headed up Shmertz Communications' Washington office before going to Hawthorn, where she built the firm's antitrust and litigation support group. Moore was National Journal's senior editor before going to Hawthorn about two years ago. He was previously associate editor at Legal Times.