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You may be shocked to learn that law firms are becoming political

Check out the University of Iowa’s ranking of most liberal and conservative law firms.

Gary Baise

October 12, 2022

3 Min Read
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You may not think of a law firm as political, but in today’s polarized atmosphere they are in fact getting pushed into red or blue corners, or Republican or Democrat.

I used to think it made no difference whether you were a Republican or Democrat when you look at legal issues, but my mind is beginning to change. I see agricultural interests losing so many times in the courts. I decided to look at Open Secrets, a nonpartisan independent research group tracking money in politics.   I found the University of Iowa College of Law professor Derek Muller had ranked the most liberal and conservative law firms in 2021.

In his Excess of Democracy blog, the professor offers a disclaimer: “At the outset, ranking in quotes a firm or calling it “conservative” or “liberal” is imperfect…”  Even so, this list includes the largest law firms in the United States. Many represent agriculture interests.

The professor looked at whether law firms contributed to the Donald Trump campaign including its Victory Fund. It also looked at contributions to the DNC, RNC, and the campaign committees. The professor looked at all contributions from law firms such as paralegals and administrative assistants.

He captured about “$61 million” for Democratic affiliated groups as compared to about $11 million for Republican affiliated candidates.

The professor looked at law firm contributions from major Democrat and Republican campaigns from 2017-2020. It is no surprise that Perkins Coie, counsel to the Democratic National Committee, shows up near the top contributors to the Democrat party. This law firm has been in the news as being the major Democrat law firm associated with Hillary Clinton.

A large firm I know in the Midwest, Faegre Drinker, represents many agricultural interests. I think you will find many firms representing agricultural interests and their contributions of your money go to Democrats. In fact, you have to get down close to the bottom of the law firm list before there are even contributions between Republicans and Democrats.

Many firms have fewer than 10% of contributions go to major Republican outlets. White and Case, a major New York law firm had $500,000 go to the Trump Victory Fund. As you might expect, the major plaintiff’s law firms contribute virtually 100% to democrat causes and candidates.

One firm you see on television frequently is Morgan and Morgan. From 2017-2020 this firm contributed virtually 90% to Democrats. You have to get to the bottom of the list to find a Republican law firm.

What banks are doing

Another interesting story I saw in the legal publications last week was that many banks are moving away from the top law firms.  The article did not say whether they are moving away because the firms are conservative or liberal. I am not saying that any of these firms recognized by Professor Muller are not giving agricultural interests good representation. All that I am saying is that you should look at the University of Iowa’s listing of most liberal and conservative law firms before you hire the law firm to represent a major agricultural interest. The law firm may not have the same views as the agricultural interest may have.

The firms that gave the most money to Democrats were Wilmer Hale in Washington, D.C., which will not surprise you. Robert Mueller came from that firm. One firm that surprised me that gave the most money to Democrats was Kirkland & Ellis, a Chicago based law firm, which represents a number of agricultural interests. Another firm that represents a number of agricultural interests is Bryan Cave of St. Louis.  90.6% of its contributions went to Democrats.    

About the Author(s)

Gary Baise

Ag Lawyer/Blogger, Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC

Gary Baise is an Illinois farmer and trial attorney at the law firm Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC. He also serves as outside General Counsel for several national agriculture organizations, including Agricultural Retailers Association and National Sorghum Producers. Baise organized President Trump’s agricultural team of advisers. He was the first Chief of Staff to the first U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. He owns a family farm in Jacksonville, Ill.

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