Kannon Shanmugam on Building A Supreme Court Practice

October 22nd, 2013

Tony Mauro has an insightful interview with Kannon Shanmugam, chair of William & Connolly’s Supreme Court Practice. A few highlights.

On taking pro bono cases, and lower rates to argue cases before the Court:

It’s more visible, so I think there’s a sense in which it is valuable to be there regularly. And look, everyone enjoys Supreme Court arguments. I love arguing in the Supreme Court, but I also love arguing in other courts, so I don’t view it as the be-all and end-all for our practice. I have now argued five cases in the court in my first five years at the firm, which is frankly more than I would have expected or hoped for when I got here. But it isn’t a priority of mine to get as many Supreme Court arguments as possible.

Part of the reason why that’s true, quite frankly, that a lot of the work in the Supreme Court is work that is done pro bono or at a reduced rate. While it’s obviously worthwhile to do cases in the court pro bono, provided those cases are consistent with the objectives of our pro bono program, my long-term goal is to build a practice that is sustainable. It’s very rare nowadays that you have a Supreme Court case where you can charge your usual rates, and even former solicitors general are routinely doing cases in the court nowadays at reduced rates.

On the competition to get arguments:

I think there’s just incredible competition for cases in the court, and that’s borne out in the reports about how aggressive some lawyers have been in pursuing those cases. So it’s supply and demand in the sense that the supply of Supreme Court arguments is relatively limited.