Saturday, December 17, 2005


Lawyering vs. Lobbying As the ethically-challenged ex-lawmakers Bill Shoemakers, Wally Kunickis, Gary Georges, Chuck Chvalas and Brian Burkes turned Wisconsin into Illinois North with their pay-to-play campaign strategies, here is a nugget from our big-city neighbors that has some merit.As a business model, it would seem logical for law firms to bring non-attorneys in-house to generate new business or compliment existing business. And because law firms market the attorney-client privilege as a bonus of doing business with them, versus a lobby-shop, where there are no standards of practice or ethical guidelines (other than the paper tiger of a state Ethics Board), it also seems more up-and-up to retain a law firm.On the surface, everything appears kosher. Yet, as society becomes ever-more litigious, I suspect it becomes exponentially more difficult to work both ends of the equation; the slow slog of lawyers processing motions and digesting case history, versus the more desirable (from a corporate viewpoint) process of drafting a bill or an amendment and lobbying legislative leadership or committee chairmen to fast-track relief. (In Wisconsin, see All Sums legislation)Neither lawyering nor lobbying are inherently evil professions. The process needs both.But the process also needs an infusion of better judgment and Winston & Strawn may be setting a new, old, trend that will migrate to Wisconsin.Winston & Strawn halts lobbyingHeaded by ex-Gov. Thompson, firm's growth led to conflicts-----The law firm that former Gov. James Thompson built into a lobbying powerhouse in Springfield has quietly gone out of that line of work, a casualty of changing ethics laws and its own growth as a worldwide corporate litigator. Loop-based Winston & Strawn LLP shut down its lobbying practice this summer after the firm's two main Springfield hands, John Nicolay and Timothy Dart, left the firm to set up their own lobbying practice.They were the only two left in an office that once had six attorneys lobbying for big-name clients such as Philip Morris USA and Illinois doctors' insurance interests. The action follows Mr. Thompson's decision early in 2004 to cease his own lobbying activities. Under a new state ethics law that took effect then, Mr. Thompson had to cease lobbying if his wife, Jayne, was to continue to chair the board of the Chicago Public Library, which is partially funded by the state.FRIENDLY SPLITBoth Messrs. Thompson and Nicolay say their split was amicable but necessary, given Winston & Strawn's rapid growth into an international firm with offices serving lucrative corporate clients around the world."We'd bring in clients, and we couldn't take them," says Mr. Nicolay. "We got tired of having a conflict (of interest) with some (Winston & Strawn) guy in London or New York that we'd never met."Indeed, Springfield lobbying increasingly is the domain of boutique firms, such as Chicago's Nicolay & Dart, which don't carry the conflict issues or the overhead of litigation behemoths."When you have the costs, the freight, that major law firms do, it makes it much harder to compete," says lobbyist Andrew Raucci, who left a Chicago law firm and struck out on his own several years ago. Unlike lawyers who have to worry about billable hours, "I can be in Springfield all the time," says Mr. Raucci, who charges clients a flat fee, rather than an hourly rate.Mr. Thompson, who will send prospective lobbying clients to Nicolay & Dart, says he misses "the interaction with the legislative folks" that lobbying provided.But the four-term former governor noted that under the law, he still can advise clients on legislative strategy. And he continues to rub shoulders with lawmakers on occasion."I still see them," Mr. Thompson says. "I just can't lobby them." For more information : http://www.wisopinion.com/blogs/2005/09/lawyering-vs-lobbying.html Saludos Rodrigo González Fernández, lawyerschile.blogspot.com

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