Pete Robinson. (Photo: John Disney/ALM)

King & Spalding has recruited one of Georgia’s most influential lobbyists, Pete Robinson, from Troutman Sanders just as the state Legislature’s 2019 session begins.

Robinson, who joined King & Spalding’s government advocacy and public policy team as a partner on Tuesday, co-founded and headed Troutman’s lobbying arm, Troutman Sanders Strategies, and was the managing partner of its Atlanta office.

“Troutman did a lot for me personally and professionally and helped make my career what it is right now,” Robinson said. “This is an opportunity for another really interesting and great career.”

Robinson, who started out as a litigator in his hometown of Columbus, said his practice has broadened over the years beyond lobbying and government relations counseling to advising clients on legal and strategic issues, including litigation strategy. During his 17 years at Troutman, he also became involved in the daily operation of the law firm.

He hopes to further expand his practice at his new firm. “King & Spalding has a broader array of practices and interconnections of practices and opportunities,” Robinson said, due to its size and now-international footprint.

“The whole platform presents possibilities,” he said, including almost 200 professionals in the firm’s Washington office “with a myriad of government-facing capabilities.”

King & Spalding envisions Robinson in a broader role as well, said Atlanta managing partner Josh Kamin.

“Pete is an incredible talent,” Kamin said. “We view [that] as something that can benefit everyone on our platform. He’s a trusted adviser.”

Robinson’s connections to the political and business world in Georgia run deep. He has chaired the state Judicial Nominating Commission for the past eight years, appointed by former Gov. Nathan Deal after serving as the vice-chair of Deal’s gubernatorial transition team. He’s also on the board of directors for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Other relationships include serving as trustee of Mercer University, where he went to law school, and on the Board of Visitors with the University of Georgia Law School. He’s also a trustee of the University System of Georgia Foundation.

“Pete is widely recognized as one of Georgia’s leading government relations lawyers, advising a number of Fortune 500 companies on their most complex strategic and public policy matters,” said King & Spalding chairman Robert Hays Jr. in a statement. “We have known and worked with Pete for a long time and are delighted to welcome him to our firm.”

Extensive Relationships

Robinson declined to say if he is bringing clients with him to King & Spalding. “The clients will make that determination at the right time,” he said.

He did say that he plans to be involved in the current Georgia legislative session.

According to Robinson’s disclosure filing with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, some of his clients, such as The Coca-Cola Co. and SunTrust Bank, are also King & Spalding clients. Longtime Troutman clients such as the Georgia Power Company and Cousins Properties are also on the list.

Other clients include AFLAC, Synovus Financial Corp., Total System Services, Prudential Financial, Home Builders Association of Georgia, General Motors, CoreCivic, Scientific Games and StudentsFirst, the charter school advocacy group started by Michelle Rhee.

(Disclosure: Troutman Sanders Strategies is the longtime lobbying firm for the Daily Report and its parent company, ALM Media.)

Unlike at Troutman, King & Spalding’s lobbying practice is part of the law firm, not a separate subsidiary.

“It’s a chance to work with a firm and with lawyers that I’ve always admired and have had the opportunity to work with in the past,” Robinson said, noting that King & Spalding lawyers have referred him work for clients at the legislature and state agencies “that needed more firepower.”

Robinson, who will be practicing out of King & Spalding’s Atlanta and Washington offices, said King & Spalding does more Georgia government relations work with state agencies on issues like tax and health care than traditional legislative lobbying.

Kamin said King & Spalding doesn’t have any plans at the moment to set up a separate lobbying subsidiary. “But we’re looking to grow. We’re looking to add talent to our platform that can use it in ways maybe they couldn’t before,” he said.

Troutman Promotes Willis

Troutman has named Robb Willis, who leads its Georgia government affairs practice, the chair of Troutman Sanders Strategies. Willis worked closely with Robinson for many years, becoming his chief of staff when Robinson was in the senate. He joined Troutman with Robinson in 2002 to start the firm’s lobbying subsidiary.

Chuck Palmer, a career Troutman lawyer, is the new managing partner for the firm’s Atlanta office. Palmer also heads Troutman’s government and regulatory practice and is a past member of its executive committee.

“We appreciate Pete’s contributions while at the firm and we wish him well,” said Troutman’s managing partner, Stephen Lewis. “As we begin the 2019 legislative session under Robb’s leadership, the TSS team will continue to deliver the same exceptional results and unmatched service to our clients.”

Under Robinson’s leadership, Troutman Sanders Strategies has become one of the state’s top lobbying shops, with 20 state and federal lobbyists in the firm’s Atlanta, Washington, Richmond, Virginia, and Raleigh, North Carolina, offices.

When Troutman recruited Robinson and Willis to start the government affairs subsidiary in 2002, Robinson was already one of Georgia’s top lobbyists.

After serving in the state Legislature throughout his 30s, he’d started his practice in 1995. Robinson served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1985-1990 and then in the state Senate from 1991-1994, where he became president pro tem and then Senate majority leader. He chose not to run for state Senate in 1994, telling Georgia Trend that at 39 he had a young family to support.

Robinson, now 64, said he had no immediate plans to retire. King & Spalding has no mandatory retirement age, which Robinson called one its attractions, while Troutman has a mandatory retirement age of 70.

“The runway [at King & Spalding] is as long as we can see,” he said.