The Business Case for Public Service

Holland & Hart saw two attorneys leave for Washington, D.C. The firm says that’s a good thing

Holland & Hart recently saw two attorneys leave for jobs in Washington, D.C., and the firm is counting them both as wins.

Joe Neguse and Jason Crow, both Holland & Hart attorneys, were elected to Congress in November. The firm recognizes the election of the two attorneys as a positive and as an example of the firm’s commitment to public service. According to the firm, public service is part of its identity, and attorneys say the firm supports them in their pursuit of board positions and elected office. 

Steve Hart, one of the firm’s founders, served in the Colorado House of Representatives from 1937 to 1939 and in the state Senate from 1939 to 1943. Peter Dominick, a former partner at the firm, served in the state House from 1956 to 1960 and in Congress from 1961 to 1975. Other attorneys have held legislative roles or were appointed judges. In all instances, the firm — or any firm — has a balancing act of having an attorney continue to bill work while also focusing time elsewhere. 

Michael Carrigan, a current partner at Holland & Hart, said the firm prizes public service and pro bono work, and he said the election of Colorado’s newest congressmen shows that commitment.

Neguse joined the firm as an associate while still a regent at the University of Colorado, and Carrigan said the firm supported him through his run for Secretary of State and then during his campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Carrigan is a CU regent, himself, and said he has first-hand experience of how the firm offers that support to its attorneys as they run for elected office. He has held elected office on the nine-member board of regents since 2004. He said his position on the board, which manages a budget of almost $5 billion, is a demanding job but is an unpaid, part-time position. He said the firm supported him when, as an of counsel attorney, he approached the chair of the management committee to ask for the time to run for the board position. 

He obviously received the safety net he needed to be able to focus on the campaign as needed. “That said, once I was serving, I worked my tail off,” Carrigan said. He resumed his business litigation practice and kept up the expectations and spent some vacation time meeting the demands of the elected office. 

When other attorneys made similar requests — to scale down a practice in order to run a campaign that might or might not conclude with them leaving the firm indefinitely — the firm has supported them. 

Carrigan said he served as a mentor for both Crow and Neguse. And in both cases, the firm negotiated a way to ensure they were busy for as many hours as they could work so they still had income but also allowed them to focus on a campaign. In Crow’s instance, there was a primary involved that had him available half-time some months, and in other months even less. “The firm made sure he had an office, insurance and other support and a place to come back to if it didn’t work out,” Carrigan said. 

Christina Gomez, a partner at the firm and chair of its pro bono committee, said the firm’s support depends on the attorney and the position they’re running for. From the management perspective, the firm encourages attorneys to take on public office or spend time working on pro bono efforts. “It’s not so formal or structured,” she said, indicating the firm looks to accommodate what is necessary. 

The firm might work out reduced compensation, reduced time or leaves of absence, depending on the situation, whether its an elected office or pro bono work such as taking on the representation of Guantanamo Bay detainees, which might involve hundreds of hours of work per year. 

“There’s an understanding there that we look beyond numbers and have work that takes [an attorney] from billable work,” Gomez said.

BUSINESS BENEFITS

And although a law firm is unlikely to see an obvious direct benefit from having attorneys succeed in their efforts to leave for elected office, there are upsides. 

“Anytime you’re building relationships in the community and building those ties, it can encourage more business,” Carrigan said. “I know I’m a better lawyer for having played these other roles.”

He said in his experience, having served on a board of directors for a multibillion-dollar entity makes him more equipped to serve clients. Having been a fact witness in a case and representing the university in its trials helps him better understand what faces corporate clients. 

The name recognition that comes from having someone elected to Congress from the firm doesn’t hurt either. 

And Gomez said being in touch with the community from a pro bono perspective helps make better lawyers as well. Many attorneys get opportunities for trials or appellate work through pro bono cases that wouldn’t come until much later in their careers otherwise. 

Gomez said the firm keeps teamwork and collaboration in the DNA of the firm. “It makes it easy makes it easy for someone to ramp up and ramp down their practice and pursue public service.”

— Tony Flesor

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