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Winning a landmark Supreme Court case for a longtime client does not guarantee pride and joy. Just ask New York’s Hughes Hubbard & Reed, which is on the defensive with some potential hires — not to mention with some of its own lawyers — for helping the Boy Scouts exclude gays from leadership roles in the organization. The backlash started even before the June victory in Boy Scouts of America and Monmouth Council v. James Dale. Worse, it has continued both inside and outside the firm. Over the summer, one candidate who was being recruited by the firm notified Hughes Hubbard in writing that he was canceling his interview because of its representation of the Scouts. Partner Daniel Weiner, who is co-chairman of recruiting for New York, concedes that he has been questioned about Hughes Hubbard’s involvement in Dale during his own recruiting efforts. This despite the fact that recruiting materials mention only that the firm represents the Boy Scouts in cases involving “constitutional issues.” Within the firm, negative reaction long preceded the victory. After the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in January, litigation partner George Davidson sent a widely disseminated e-mail message congratulating the lawyers who had helped him argue the case. He also stressed the constitutional implications for freedom of association. Within hours of that message, Ross Lipman, an associate in Hughes Hubbard’s New York office, composed an e-mail of his own. According to some of those within the firm who read his message, Lipman, who is gay (and who declined to comment), wrote that the constitutional justifications were mere pretext. He also complained that the Scouts’ position would only perpetuate stereotypes and validate further discrimination against gays. Last, he argued that, even if this was work that Hughes Hubbard was obligated to perform, it was not seemly or wise to pat itself on the back or to publicize it. Then Lipman hit the send button, transmitting the message to the entire firm. Hughes Hubbard has been representing the Boy Scouts since the late 1930s. Indeed, the firm had already argued and won other freedom of association cases (one involving gays, the others concerned with complaints brought by atheists and girls) in four states. But in Dale the Boy Scouts were defending their revocation of membership for openly gay Eagle Scout James Dale by declaring that the group’s message is and always has been opposed to homosexuality; the case was much higher profile than its predecessors. As one firm attorney points out: “Maybe no one gets too upset when we’re representing the Boy Scouts about excluding atheists, but this issue got closer to home.” FAIRLY OPEN FIRM “Home,” ironically enough, is a firm that is known for its relatively open culture. Hughes Hubbard was the first major New York-based law firm to name a woman chair. It offers health insurance coverage for domestic partners. And openly gay attorneys bring their partners to firm events. What is more, beyond its collection of blue-chip corporate clients, the firm has a thriving art and entertainment law practice, representing clients such as MTV and Broadcast Music Inc. The firm has even provided pro bono work to gay rights groups. Notwithstanding the personality of the firm, Lipman’s e-mailed response was not widely acclaimed. One attorney recalls that, on receiving the message, “people were kind of shocked, like, ‘Wow, did he do that by mistake?’ “ Both Davidson and Carla Kerr, another partner who worked on the Dale case, say that an e-mail, particularly one sent firmwide, was not the appropriate forum. “Ross took it personally,” Kerr said. “He sold out his colleagues who were mentioned in the e-mail for having done a good job as lawyers.” That said, the firm seems unlikely to begin trumpeting its victory again. Said another attorney: “I don’t think anybody but the lawyers who worked on the case are particularly proud of it.” The standard disclaimer, mentioned by both Davidson and Kerr, is that law firms represent all kinds of clients: from Big Tobacco to gun manufacturers to banks that pilfered Holocaust victims’ accounts. True enough. But it is probably the first time that the Boy Scouts have found themselves on that kind of list.

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