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As State AGs Rush Into Policy Battles, Big Law Is Seizing the Opportunity

The American Lawyer

State attorney general offices continue to flex their muscle in addressing hot-button national issues, including the opioid crisis, data privacy and now the coronavirus pandemic, leading to the proliferation of state attorney general practices across Big Law and the solidification of the once-niche practice area into a staple government practice.


In recent years, numerous large firms have started attorney general practices to offer expertise to clients in disparate industries, including pharmaceuticals, retail and technology. The growing list of recent entrants includes Holland & Knight, Crowell & Moring; Blank Rome; O’Melveny & Myers; Cozen O’Connor; Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr; Squire Patton Boggs, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft; King & Spalding; and Alston & Bird.

When the federal government relaxes its enforcement efforts, states have historically stepped in to fill the vacuum, and the Trump administration’s various efforts to block immigration from certain countries or dismantle the Affordable Care Act have brought a new level of attention and political capital to the office of attorney general.

“I don’t think we’re going to go back to where we were before,” said Jonathan Scott Goldman, a Blank Rome partner and former executive deputy attorney general under Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro. “If nothing else, the Trump administration lack of regulation and all the other legal missteps have only strengthened AGs.”


Big Law attorney general attorneys caution that the practice is unique and can’t simply be handled by a regulatory, commercial litigation or antitrust attorney. Attorneys general are elected officials, and are therefore politically motivated. Democratic and Republican attorneys general strive for different goals and outcomes; attorneys general also differ on how they want a particular matter to be handled. Lawyers in the practice said it is more akin to lobbying, and requires connections inside attorney general offices.

Goldman, for example, said much of his work is generated by referrals from other firms. Dealing with an attorney general office is completely different, he said. Public records laws make confidentiality near-impossible, and attorneys general can often take advantage of their political bully pulpit.

“When [New York Attorney General] Letitia James gets out there, sends out a press release, and she’s on Rachel Maddow or Josh Shapiro is on Wolf Blitzer, that’s incredibly powerful,” Goldman said. “If a company’s attorneys don’t understand that and deal with it effectively, it can deal great harm to our clients.”

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“As State AGs Rush Into Policy Battles, Big Law Is Seizing the Opportunity,” by Dylan Jackson was published in The American Lawyer on October 22, 2020.