Elias departs Perkins Coie, as firm says will continue political law practice

The office of the law firm Perkins Coie in Washington, D.C., May 10, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Elias Law Group will represent candidates, party committees, support Democrats
  • Perkins Coie brought in $46 million from candidates, PACs, FEC data shows

Famed election rights lawyer Marc Elias has departed Perkins Coie to strike out on his own, as the law firm said it would continue advising clients on campaign finance and other political matters.

Elias, 10 other Perkins Coie partners and three counsel left the firm to form Elias Law Group, Perkins Coie announced Sunday. The new Washington, D.C.-based firm, which will also have an office in Perkins Coie's hometown of Seattle, will represent candidates, party committees, political committees, nonprofit organizations, entities and voters. It will also back Democratic candidates and supporting voting rights.

Some observers said they believe the new firm will allow Elias, a Democrat, and his colleagues to take on more work than they could at Perkins Coie, something Elias alluded to in his statement: "The formation of Elias Law Group will allow us to more fully engage in representing our clients in the political process at this unique moment in history."

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Elias served as the general counsel for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. On Monday, Clinton shared the news about the launch of the Elias Law Group on Twitter, writing, "Thrilled to see one of our mightiest warriors for voting rights expand his practice."

During the 2020 presidential campaign cycle, Elias quarterbacked the Biden campaign's state-level litigation team, pushing back against false claims by former President Donald Trump and others that the election had been rigged. He has also challenged Republican-backed restrictions on voting.

Perkins Coie said it will continue providing businesses, nonprofits and individuals with legal compliance and compliance services on matters like campaign finance, lobbying disclosure and ethics.

"Both the firm and the group’s leaders agree that the logical next step in the group’s evolution is to form an independent firm that can build on the work for which it has become so well-known," firmwide managing partner Bill Malley said in a statement.

Rebecca Gordon, who advises clients on lobbying disclosures, will lead Perkins Coie's corporate political activities practice, the firm said. Additionally, the firm said it's keeping partners Bruce Spiva, the managing partner of its D.C. office, and Brian Svoboda, a 24-year veteran of ethics and campaign finance law.

Perkins Coie's political law practice is a moneymaker. Last year, the firm raked in $46 million from candidates, party committees, political action committees and other entities, according to Federal Elections Commission data.

But three industry observers expressed doubt that Elias and his team's departure would translate into a substantial financial hit for the firm. Perkins Coie last year generated a total $1 billion in revenue, according to financial data collected by ALM Media.

"It’s not a significant financial loss," said Jan Baran, a partner at Holtzman Vogel who previously served as general counsel for George H.W. Bush's presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee, regarding the departure of Elias and his team.

At the same time, Baran said the Elias Law Group stands to be more profitable per partner than the 1,200-lawyer Perkins Coie because of how much smaller it is. Elias and a representative for Perkins Coie did not respond to requests for comment.

Apart from Elias, the other lawyers who have joined the new firm are Jon Berkon, Aria Branch, Hannah Eaves, Elisabeth Frost, Tyler Hagenbuch, Rachel Jacobs, Abha Khanna, Kate Sawyer Keane, Katherine LaBeau, Jackie Lopez, Uzoma Nkwonta, Ezra Reese, Ben Stafford and Graham Wilson.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated with comments from Holtzman Vogel partner Jan Baran.

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at d.thomas@thomsonreuters.com and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.