Koteles Alexander didn’t want to sign the Senate lobbying registration. Unemployed for nearly a decade, the disbarred Washington, D.C.-area lawyer was trying to quietly move into a new profession. But when he was hired to lobby Congress on behalf of a client, Alexander knew he had no choice but to come out of the shadows.

Once upon a time, Alexander was the charismatic leader of one of the nation’s largest minority-owned and -operated law firms. In its heyday, the Silver Spring, Md.-based firm known as Alexander, Bearden, Hairston & Marks had 37 lawyers and a client roster that included Riggs Bank, NationsBank, the D.C. Housing Finance Agency and Black Entertainment Television.