Clients and lawyers don’t necessarily have to see eye-to-eye on everything. But when you’re a political think tank raising money from donors to advance a cause, maybe funneling those donations to a law firm with a PAC funding the other side is… ill-advised.
That’s what appears to be happening at the Guttmacher Institute, a high-profile reproductive rights think tank, that’s presently signing checks to Jackson Lewis. Unfortunately, Jackson Lewis passes some of that money along to anti-abortion candidates through its affiliated PAC. Guttmacher Employees United, the group’s unionized employees, have called on their bosses to sever its ties with the firm.
Cynics will point out that dropping Jackson Lewis would inure to the benefit of the union, since the pro-employer firm represents Guttmacher Institute in contract negotiations. But this is a red herring. Guttmacher could easily replace Jackson Lewis with any number of the talented anti-union law firms out there. That’s not a knock on Jackson Lewis, whose credentials in this area are well known, but they aren’t the only anti-union firm in the sea. This is less about an imagined tactical advantage and all about calling out an advocacy group for putting its money where its mouth isn’t.
And, of course, Jackson Lewis isn’t only giving to anti-abortion politicians. Like a lot of firms with lobbying arms, it’s playing the field to stay in the good graces of a lot of politicians. Though that’s probably a reason why a reproductive rights group should steer clear of lobbying firms.
A statement reveals that the organization is either terminally stupid or assumes you are:
Guttmacher Institute said the organization’s progressive mission is not swayed by lawyers. “Lawyers do not determine our values and positions on any issues, including unionization. Our CEO has always been very clear that Guttmacher leadership supports our staff’s desire to organize and that our management looks forward to working with the union, and this position has guided the relationship with Jackson Lewis,” a spokesperson for Guttmacher told Jezebel by email. One Friday, the union announced a public petition against Jackson Lewis.
No one is saying the lawyers have determined Guttmacher’s values, they’re saying Guttmacher’s values took a back seat to securing counsel.
Again, from a legal perspective, a client can hire whoever it wants to represent it. But when entities hire attorneys who clash with the group’s mission, that’s a business problem. The bottom line is this group hired a law firm that they either knew or should have known uses firm proceeds to fund politicians seeking abortion bans. That’s just bad executive decision-making.
Because legal work is not a pocket dimension cabined off from the rest of a client’s identity. Outside counsel becomes an extension of the business and management has to consider who it chooses as its avatar. If the client has a brand identity to maintain, it’s incumbent upon leadership to make sure it’s not undermining itself.