Firms usually love it when their lawyers and lobbyists are in the spotlight.
Trent Lott, former senator and now senior counsel at Patton Boggs, often appears on Fox News. McDermott Will & Emery white-collar defender Abbe Lowell recently did a segment on The Colbert Report.
But when the clients get upset, the fun ends.
In 2009, former House Republican leader Dick Armey, then a lobbyist at DLA Piper, learned that lesson when the firm’s drug-company clients complained about his efforts as head of the group FreedomWorks to kill health-care reform, which they supported. Armey left the firm.
Though he still has his job, Akin Gump partner Paul Mirengoff has figured out the hard way that espousing personal views at the possible expense of client relationships is a giant no-no.
Since 2002, Mirengoff has blogged for the conservative Web site Power Line. Akin Gump didn’t have a problem until recently, when Mirengoff criticized the Native American prayer delivered as the invocation at the memorial service honoring those killed and injured in Tucson. In a Power Line post, Mirengoff called the prayer “ugly” and described it as “some sort of Yaqui Indian tribal thing, with lots of references to ‘the creator’ but no mention of God.”
Akin Gump has an American Indian Law and Policy practice. The result was a public thrashing of Mirengoff on Akin Gump’s Web site. Partner James Meggesto, who represents Indian tribes and is himself a member of the Onondaga Nation, wrote that he was “shocked, appalled and embarrassed” by the blog post, calling it “insensitive and wholly inappropriate.”
Akin Gump chairman Bruce McLean issued his own statement condemning Mirengoff’s “poor choice of words.”
Mirengoff apologized and removed the post from Power Line.
Akin Gump now is reviewing its social-media-related policies. And Mirengoff, who has since quit Power Line, will have to find a new hobby.
This article first appeared in the March 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.