Why Biden's infrastructure plan has Big Law firms licking their chops

The U.S. legal industry is poised to reap a windfall in dealmaking, litigation, and lobbying fees from an historic spending surge aimed at the country’s infrastructure.

President Joe Biden’s proposed $2.3 trillion plan still faces opposition, and its final shape is uncertain. But major spending legislation is expected to pass one way or another, and that means plenty of work to go around for a range of practice areas, said Rich Gold, the leader of Holland & Knight’s public policy and regulation group, home to the firm’s prominent lobbying practice.

“With this amount of money pumping through the system, we are certainly going to see all boats lifted in law land, from policy to litigation to corporate to real estate,” Gold said.

That includes the infrastructure practice at rival firm Kirkland & Ellis, where partner Rohit Chaudhry represents private equity funds, developers, lenders and investors in energy and project finance transactions. Any amount of additional government spending is going to buoy dealmaking activity, he said.

“It’s expected to provide a tremendous boost to the market,” Chaudhry said of the administration’s proposal, noting that the increased activity will also drive law firm revenues.

Two weeks after Biden first announced his spending plan, law firms are answering general questions for now about what provisions may or may not be in a final bill, partners at several firms said.

“The clients realize as well that the details are just not available yet, and probably not even determined yet,” said Denise Raytis, an infrastructure finance partner at O’Melveny & Myers.

As is customary when major change is in the offing, O’Melveny and other firms have been begun to organize internal, firmwide task forces focused on the infrastructure bill. In addition to lobbying and project finance, the proposed influx of U.S. dollars in the economy has implications for government contracting, False Claims Act litigation, tax and many other practices.

By putting lawyers with different specialties together, O’Melveny’s task force will be able to “literally address any question” from clients, said Eric Richards, co-chair of the firm’s corporate department.

Some law firms are already beefing up their ranks to meet demand. Kirkland, for instance, has brought on at least seven infrastructure-focused partners in the past four months, Chaudhry said. The firm’s existing workload has driven that growth, but so has the infrastructure bill, he said.

Holland & Knight, meanwhile, is looking to add more support-level staffers, Gold said. He’s anticipating the next several months to be fairly busy, on par with the work he and his colleagues put in on the CARES Act Congress passed last year.

Last year, Holland & Knight earned about $28 million from federal lobbying work, according to disclosures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, placing it among the top five lobbying firms by revenue.

“In Washington, we always like to say, you can either be at the table or be on the menu. And I think people definitely have that sense about this bill,” Gold said.