A New Lobbying Beachhead

By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, April 13, 2006

Though many lobby shops have found a successful niche as a subsidiary or a practice within a law firm, it's not uncommon for lobbyists to chafe under law firm culture.

Law firms generally bill by the hour and often throw young, lesser-paid associates at the work. Lobbyists advertise that their senior people roll up their sleeves for the client. Their work is not time-intensive, and they don't like to bill by the hour. So sometimes the lobbyists go back out on their own.

Recently, six members of the legislative group at the law firm Fleischman and Walsh broke away after seven years to form their own lobby shop, the Normandy Group .

The leader of the group is Louis Dupart , who had established the lobby practice at Fleischman, known for its communications law practice. Dupart had worked on the Hill as chief counsel for the Senate antitrust subcommittee and the House intelligence committee, as well as for Dick Cheney during his days at the Defense Department.

Besides issues of billing and compensation, Dupart said that the legislative group is interested in a more diverse group of clients and that "there were not a lot of national overlaps" with the law firm.

"We felt we could do a better job as an independent lobby firm," he said.

Both Dupart and Aaron Fleischman , managing partner of the law firm, said the split was a friendly one.

Also a part of the original bipartisan group: Jonathon Lehman , former counsel for then-Sen. Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.); Krista Stark , former legislative director for House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.); Stan Skocki , former appropriations director for Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio); and Christine Pellerin , former appropriations director for Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Appropriations agriculture subcommittee.

One of Normandy's clients is Forest City Enterprises Inc., a Cleveland-based company involved in redeveloping the neighborhood that will be home to the Washington Nationals' ballpark. Other clients include American Airlines, Verizon and Miami University of Ohio.

Dupart said they chose the name Normandy because it "says something about strength and resolve." He considered presidential names, but Madison was already taken and many Republicans don't like Franklin or Teddy Roosevelt.

Risk Good for Business

International and domestic business deals seem to be risky business these days, running up against political and regulatory obstacles in Washington and capitals worldwide -- witness the controversy that recently stalled the Dubai port deal.

What's a chief executive to do? Some are turning to various sorts of "strategic" consultants for help in public affairs, media training, crisis communications and such. Once such company, the Brunswick Group , a "strategic communications" firm, is finding that the need of corporations to deal with political risk is good for business.

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