Holder: Covington Hired Me, Knowing They Would Lose A Big Bank Client. Cf. Paul Clement and King & Spalding

April 29th, 2016

Former-Attorney General Holder spoke at Georgetown about his return to private practice at Covington & Burling. Tony Mauro reports that a “big bank” told Covington that they would have to drop the firm if Holder was hired. The firm didn’t care, and hired Holder anyway.

He also revealed that Covington may have lost a client because the firm hired him back.

“Big banks are not beating down my door” for him to represent them, Holder said. “One big bank went to Covington and said, ‘If you hire this guy, that is going to put at risk the relationship between this firm and this bank.’ ”

Holder went on to say that the firm’s chairman, Timothy Hester, to his credit, said, “I guess we’re not going to have a relationship anymore, because he’s coming back to Covington.”

Compare this with how King & Spalding treated Paul Clement when he was retained to represent the House of Representatives in United States v. Windsor.

Instead of standing by Clement, who at the time was already one of the top Supreme Court advocates, and who had already retained a client, the firm withdrew from the matter. Clement promptly left the firm, writing that he resigned “out of the firmly held belief that a representation should not be abandoned because the client’s legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters . . . When it comes to the lawyers, the surest way to be on the wrong side of history is to abandon a client in the face of hostile criticism.” Clement then began his illustrious service at Bancroft.

Dahlia Lithwick wrote at the time:

Human Rights Campaign, the gay rights advocacy group that had been agitating against Clement’s defense of the law, is happy to claim responsibility for pressuring the firm to abandon its representation. The group indicated that while it did not pressure other clients to leave the firm, it did “contact King and Spalding clients to let them know that the group viewed the firm’s defense of DOMA as unacceptable.” Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, explained: “We are an advocacy firm that is dedicated to improving the lives of gays and lesbians. It is incumbent on us to launch a full-throated educational campaign so firms know that these kinds of engagements will reflect on the way your clients and law school recruits think of your firm.”

Tony Mauro reported:

Pressure from within King & Spalding — as well as from some of its clients — were said to be factors in Clement’s exit.

One firm dropped a major bank as a client, rather than refuse to hire the former Attorney General, who had not engaged in any attorney-client relationships yet. Another firm dropped a lawyer–the former Solicitor General–after he had already engaged in an attorney-client relationship. One firm was willing to lose a client to hire an attorney. Another firm would rather withdraw from a matter, and let an attorney go, to avoid alienating clients. Go figure.