Re: Government Relations Firms And Their Employees - Center for Professional Responsibility


August 3, 1999


Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice
Center for Professional Responsibility
American Bar Association
541 North Fairbanks Court
Chicago, Illinois 60611-3314


Dear Members of the Commission:

The undersigned organizations provide strategic counsel in Washington and throughout the United States on a wide variety of legislative, regulatory and government affairs issues. We have reviewed the recommendations and report of the Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice dated June 8, and are writing at this time in opposition to those aspects of the Commission’s recommendations that will have an adverse effect on government relations firms and their employees. In particular, we are concerned that the Commission’s proposed definition of the "practice of law" would give the legal profession unprecedented control over lawyers who work outside of traditional law firms. We see no basis for new regulation and urge the Commission to modify the proposed definition, substituting the narrower, more traditional definition of the practice of law (a lawyer who creates a client expectation that the client is receiving legal services), which better serves the public interest.

As you are no doubt aware, many law firms across the United States have a thriving lobbying practice on both the national and state level. In fact, more than half of the largest 100 government relations operations in the nation are law firms. Most of the other firms, including ours, employ numerous lawyers to provide strategic counsel to clients on potential legislation and its effect on a particular non-profit agency, business client, industry or profession. Our lawyers do not hold themselves out as being engaged in the practice of law and do not create an expectation with their clients that they are dispensing legal advice. They do, however, provide a valuable service to their clients -- a service seriously threatened by the Commission’s proposed definition of the practice of law. As we understand this definition, the bar would now regulate all of our lawyer employees as well as our firms because they provide services that are provided by lawyers in a law firm. In addition, we have concerns that the bar could attempt to prosecute our non-lawyer employees for the unauthorized practice of law simply because they do what lawyers in law firms do.

The Commission’s proposal would sharply curtail the services that we, and many other businesses, could offer to clients. Surely the Commission did not intend to expand exponentially the services that only lawyers can offer – a result that could only be viewed as anti-consumer.

We are opposed to any unilateral attempt to turn our organizations, in effect, into law firms by extending the legal profession’s regulatory reach into organizations that have never before been regulated by the bar. We encourage the American Bar Association to reject this approach.


Richard C. White
Alpine Group, Inc.

David A. Metzner
American Continental Group, Inc.

Jeffrey T. Bergner
Bergner Bockorny, Inc.

Terry Haines
Boland & Madigan, Inc.

Thomas J. Downey
Downey & Associates

John W. Angus, III
The Duberstein Group, Inc.

Michael S. Berman
The Duberstein Group, Inc.

G. Stephen Perry
The Dutko Group, Inc.

Patrick J. Griffin
Griffin, Johnson, Dover & Stewart

David E. Johnson
Griffin, Johnson, Dover & Stewart

Daryl H. Owen
Hooper Owen Gould & Winburn

N. Hunter Johnston
Johnston & Associates


Bob Livingston
The Livingston Group, LLC

Bill Brewster
R. Duffy Wall & Associates


Rod Chandler
R. Duffy Wall & Associates

James E. Smith
The Smith-Free Group

William H. Cable
Timmons & Co., Inc.

Cynthia E. Berry
The Wexler Group