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The District of Columbia is the epicenter of lobbying in the United States. With the presence of the Congress, the Executive Branch and its various Departments and independent agencies, few industries, trade associations or large businesses lack a Washington-based government relations arm. Law firms and lawyers fill in the gaps for those entities that lack a Washington presence or supplement in-house staffing with additional expertise and contacts.

Under these circumstances, it should come as no surprise that the bar authorities in the District of Columbia have examined the issue of lawyers and lobbying and implemented rules that differ from the ABA Model Rules and are unique, to our knowledge, in the United States.

Like other jurisdictions, various Committees of the Bar and the Court have issued opinions that have concluded that lobbying is not the practice of law and can be done outside of the law firms. Hence the rise of the ‘‘K Street’’ lobbying shops that can be and frequently are composed of and owned and managed by nonlawyers. Unlike other jurisdictions, however, the D.C. Bar has concluded that the basic rule for current client conflicts—that a lawyer cannot be directly adverse to a current client—does not apply in the lobbying context.


Reproduced with permission from the ABA/BNA Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct, Vol. 29, No. 22, (Oct. 23, 2013). Copyright 2013 by The American Bar Association and The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033)

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29 Law. Manual on Prof. Conduct (BNA), at 1-3 (Oct. 23, 2013)