ANATIVE OF GEORGIA, Chester Davenport left his Washington law practice in 1976 to join Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign. He went from there to the Carter transition staff and then received a presidential appointment as an assistant secretary of transportation. Now Davenport is rejoining his old firm.
All this would be less than newsworthy except that Davenport is black and the firm he is rejoining -- Hudson, Leftwich & Davenport -- has all black partners.
While black lawyers now have begun to use the revolving door, for the most part they have sprung from government positions to white law firms. Former transportation secretary William T. Coleman, for example, left government to become a Washington partner for the Los Angeles firm of O'Melveny & Myers. But black lawyers in Washington say that Davenport is the first black lawyer to return to his black law firm.
Moreover, the path Davenport tried is part of a grand design to carve a place for Hudson Leftwich & Davenport in the mainstream of Washington Davenport in the mainstream of Washington law.
"We sat down eight years ago (when the firm was founded) and decided we wanted to build up a real Washington law practice," Davenport said. "To do that, we knew we had to be politically active."
That wasn't really hard. Davenport already had worked for the Justice Department and served as a legislative aide to Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.). The other founding partners also had political backgrounds. James L. Hudson was active in Democratic politics and had built strong connections with the home rule government of Washington, headed by Walter Washington. Willie L. Leftwich, on the other hand, was a staunch Republican involved in party politics locally and nationally.
So it was preordained: no matter who won the presidency in 1976, one member of the firm was likely to get a top job in government.
The decision to go for a traditional Washington practice as a black firm -- cut off from the old boy network that provides the big money clients for most white Washington law firms -- was a hard one.
It meant they would eschew work most black lawyers are forced to take to put bread on the table -- hanging around the courthouse, accepting assignment to criminal cases, handling divorces and looking for personal injury suits.
"We decided to pay some dues, do some sacrificing," said Hudson.
They plowed money back into the firm, hired some associates, took another parther, Keith Seay, who had been with Arent, Fox, Kintner, Plotkin & Kahn, and looked for the kind of client that would move them in the direction they wanted to go.
So the firm now is bond counsel for the District of Columbia. It also represents Detroit and New Orleans in Washington. It has a piece of Conrail's Northeast Corridor Development, represents a few trade associations and local and out-of-town real estate developments, and does work for some private corporations. But it has not landed the plum of being lead Washington counsel to a major, Fortune 500 corporation.
The firm also gets referrals from major white firms who have clients they feel need a black law firm.
Now Chester Davenport is back, with the expanded contacts he gained in his two years with the Department of Transportation. He worked, for example, on airline deregulation and helped negotiate critical airline agreements between the United States and great Britain.
Davenport also had extensive dealings with Saudi Arabian officials, for whom he helped put together a national bus transportation system, and with governments of Eastern Europe.
Will these contacts lead to new business? Davenport isn't sure, but he, Jim Hudson and Willie Leftwich sure hope so. After all, it's the way of Washington law.
Richard G. Kleindienst's former law partners in the firm of Welch, Morgan & Kleindienst (now in the firm of Welch, Morgan & Kleindienst (now Welch & Morgan) opted for a settlement in a lawsuit over a $250,000 fee received for helping an insurance company obtain a lucrative Teamsters Union contract.
Vincent B. Welch and Edward P. Morgan agreed to repay $66,000 -- most of their share of the fee.
Kleindienst, now in private practice in northern Virginia, is among the defendents still being sued for their parts of the fee. Kleindienst, a former attorney general in the Nixon administration, told the Securites and Exchange Commission in 1976 that his firm kept half of the $250,000 fee for "five to seven hours work," including contacting Teamsters President Frank Fitzsimmons.
The suit was filed by J. N. Trimble, director of insurance for the state of Arizona on behalf of Family Provider Life Insurance Co. of America.
The Fairfax Bar Association has published a directory listing 300 lawyers who practice in the county. The book includes their location and the areas of law in which they feel they have special expertise.
The directory, patterned after one published 18 months ago by the D.C. Bar, also gives information about lawyers' education and the number of years the lawyers have practiced in the county. Some attorneys even volunteered a clue as to how much they will charge.