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"Celebrate the lawyers, but vilify the lobbyists?"

It's notoriously difficult to draw any sharp line distinguishing the strictly lawyerly activities of Washington, D.C.law firms from their lobbying and public-advocacy activities; thus the marshaling of arguments into persuasive documentary form might fall into any of the three categories depending on the identity of a document's intended recipient. Which raises a paradox, since, as Josh Gerstein notes as Politico, the emerging wisdom is that a lawyer's choice of legal clients must never, ever (well, hardly ever) be grounds for later reproach on entering government service, while the same lawyer's choice of lobbying clients confers a taint as ineradicable as Lady Macbeth's.

Put differently, Washington law firms have a great deal going: because their internal workings are necessarily somewhat opaque, their participants can inevitably engage in (and reap the high rewards of) some non-courtroom advocacy efforts on behalf of unpopular well-heeled clients without having to pay the public price of ostracism as lobbyists. The greater the disjunction between the treatment of lawyers and lobbyists, the greater the opportunities for this sort of arbitrage, and the more prosperous we can expect D.C. law firms to grow. I wonder whether this is mere coincidence. (& welcome Legal Blog Watch readers).

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.