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Holly Flowers’ Web site characterizes her practice as “a different kind of law firm.” False advertising it is not. Since setting up shop as a solo practitioner just last year, Flowers has built a Washington, D.C., practice out of representing clients many other lawyers shun: the rank-and-file workers of the sex industry. Flowers, 29, provides legal advice to X-rated Web site operators, prostitutes, exotic dancers and escort services, among other outside-the-mainstream clients. She calls it “the sex-friendly firm with a social conscience.” Flowers, who also advocates for the rights of sex workers, says sex workers often have a hard time finding lawyers they can trust and feel comfortable working with. “I’m not threatening, and I’m not judgmental,” said Flowers. There’s a reason for that. While in college in Los Angeles, Flowers moonlighted in the adult entertainment industry, including working as an exotic dancer and nude model. She said her experience has made it easier for sex workers to trust her. “They know I’m not coming at this from a voyeuristic point of view,” she said. She worked for a labor union in Washington, D.C., before graduating from American University’s Washington College of Law in 1998. She said she became interested in legal issues involved in the sex trade when she wrote a law review article on unionization in the adult entertainment industry. As part of her research, she interviewed dancers at San Francisco’s Lusty Lady peep show, where the workers voted to form a union in 1996 — the first time adult entertainers had organized. “This was done virtually without any attorneys involved [on the dancers' side],” said Flowers. “They were being shunned and turned away because of the stigma. That just struck me as so wrong.” In addition to sex workers, Flowers also gets clients with unusual lifestyles — people who might be reluctant to confide in a lawyer in wingtips and a Brooks Brothers suit. CONTRACT SUBMISSIVENESS She once worked with a couple who were sufficiently serious about their dominant-submissive personal relationship that they wanted to spell out their obligations in an enforceable contract. The man, by night the submissive, owned the company where the woman worked during the day. Flowers knew that a contract of this kind would not likely be upheld in court, so she drafted an employment contract that incorporated aspects of the couple’s personal interests. Like any lawyer, her hours reflect those of her clients. Flowers said she is more likely to put in an 11 a.m.-to-1 a.m. day than one that runs 9-to-5. She also changed her name, leaving behind Holly Wilmet for the catchier Holly Flowers. Sex workers have all of the same legal problems that other workers have, Flowers said, with a few more thrown in. For example, escorts and exotic dancers get into divorce fights like anyone else. But their work often becomes the center of disputes over child custody. She has drafted cease-and-desist letters for clients whose photographs are posted on Web sites without their consent. Webmasters with pornographic sites consult Flowers to make sure they don’t run afoul of obscenity laws, although she tells them there’s no legal silver bullet. When Flowers does work for clients outside the sex industry, she focuses mainly on issues involving artistic freedom, employment law and civil rights. She is a member of the Free Speech Coalition, an adult entertainment industry group, and has volunteered her time with a D.C. group that provides services to street prostitutes. After graduating from law school, Flowers worked as an associate at Washington, D.C.’s Joseph D. Gebhardt & Assocs., where she practiced employment-discrimination law. Flowers said she gets many of her clients through word of mouth and Internet contacts. It can be hard to get a solo practice off the ground, but she is confident hers will continue to grow. “I think it’s coming along quite nicely,” she said. Her firm’s Web site is at www.flowerslawfirm.com.

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