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D.C. attorney Thomas Goldstein, who rocked the rarified world of Supreme Court advocacy by his aggressive pursuit of cases, will join the powerhouse law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld as a partner May 1. Goldstein, 35, who has argued 16 cases before the Court, currently runs his three-member firm Goldstein & Howe from his house with wife Amy Howe. “I decided it was time to take on a bigger platform for my Supreme Court work, and this is a great fit.” Goldstein declined to put a price tag on the deal, but said he was approached by several firms in the last few years before agreeing to join Akin Gump. For the 900-lawyer Akin Gump, the hire instantly raises its profile in the increasingly prized Supreme Court practice area. “This is an answer to a prayer,” said Akin Gump chairman R. Bruce McLean in an interview. “When clients go to the Supreme Court, they often go to the handful of specialists in this field. We wanted to offer this service to our Fortune 500 client base.” Arguing at the Supreme Court is “a very prestigious practice,’ McLean added, “and this increases the prestige of our entire firm.” Goldstein caught the Supreme Court bug a dozen years ago while interning for National Public Radio correspondent Nina Totenberg as a student at American University’s Washington College of Law. With none of the usual credentials shared by top Supreme Court advocates — he is not a former high court law clerk, not a Harvard or Yale grad, and not an alumnus of the solicitor general’s office — Goldstein went after Supreme Court work anyway, beginning at Jones Day. He then worked with the likes of David Boies and Laurence Tribe, and was a key part of the Al Gore team in the historic Bush v. Gore case of 2000. Goldstein launched his home-based family firm in 1999, focusing almost exclusively on Supreme Court work and gradually recruiting top law school students as associates to help. His trademark technique for finding clients was scanning lower court rulings for splits among federal circuits, then cold-calling lawyers who lost with an offer to take their cases to the Supreme Court for free. Some were obscure and losing causes, but Goldstein got face time with the justices, the best ticket into the club. Paying customers soon followed, and Goldstein has billed more than $1 million annually for the last several years. He also launched the widely read SCOTUSblog, a valuable marketing tool that is expected to continue after he joins Akin Gump. (He is a former contributor to Legal Times, as well.) Veteran advocates at first frowned on Goldstein’s tactics. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., then at Hogan & Hartson once remarked, “If I’m going to have heart bypass surgery, I wouldn’t go to the surgeon who calls me up. I’d look for the guy who’s too busy for that.” But soon, rivals stopped waiting for the phone to ring and copied Goldstein. Arguing 16 cases by the age of 35 without a stint at the solicitor general’s office on his resume is likely an unmatched record in the modern era. He has won half his argued cases. “Tommy has done something quite amazing,” says Stanford Law School professor Alan Morrison, a veteran advocate before the Court. “He polevaulted into the club from a standing start to the top of the ladder. He’s a terrifically good lawyer and he is going to continue to be a major presence.” Others offered less praise. “Warren Burger would have had a heart attack” over Goldstein’s marketing techniques, said one frequent high court advocate who requested anonymity. “Tom is out of the mold,” Akin chairman McLean acknowledged. “There is no question that he has built his practice differently from Carter Phillips or John Roberts or Seth Waxman . . . and he’s been amazingly successful.” In addition, said McLean, Goldstein’s style is compatible with Akin Gump’s. “We made our mark by being aggressive too.” Under the new arrangement, as Goldstein heads to Akin Gump’s downtown D.C. offices, his wife Amy and third partner Kevin Russell, a former Justice Department litigator and law clerk to Justice Stephen Breyer, will comprise a new firm Howe & Russell. That firm will mainly do pro bono Supreme Court litigation, working with the clinics Goldstein launched at Stanford and Harvard law schools, while not conflicting with Akin Gump clients. At Akin Gump, Goldstein joins a 20-lawyer appellate practice, mainly based in California, that is part of the firm’s 450-lawyer litigation section. Among the other appellate litigators in the firm: William Norris, formerly a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit; Edward Lazarus, who authored the controversial 1998 book Closed Chambers; and former Texas appeals judge Murry Cohen.
Tony Mauro can be contacted at [email protected].

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