Hunter Bates, left, and Brian Pomper, right, co-leaders of Akin Gump's lobbying group.
Hunter Bates, left, and Brian Pomper, right, co-leaders of Akin Gump’s lobbying group. (Courtesy photos)

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Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld announced a new bipartisan leadership team for its lobbying practice this week, just months after the conspicuous start of a Republican-run government. But Joel Jankowsky, a senior partner at Akin Gump and longtime Democratic lobbying group pillar, said not much about the practice will shift.

“Lobbying has changed over time but the fundamentals are the same. They’re rooted in good client service, and they’re rooted in having a collaborative culture,” Jankowsky said.

Partner Hunter Bates, a former chief of staff to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and partner Brian Pomper, a former counsel to Senate Democrat Max Baucus, will share the group leadership job. Both men worked at smaller non-law firm lobby shops before joining Akin Gump, with Bates coming aboard only five months ago. He joined from Republic Consulting, which he co-founded in 2013. Two other Republic employees joined him at Akin Gump in January.

The pair inherit the leadership position from Donald Pongrace, a Democrat and an American Indian law specialist who will continue running that practice within the lobbying group.

Pongrace ran the department on his own during the time it grew from a major player to the top dog, a period of rapid expansion as lobbying powerhouse Patton Boggs struggled and Akin Gump picked away some of its rainmakers.

For three years now, Akin Gump has had the largest lobbying group in Washington by revenue reported in public disclosures to Congress. The size of the group in personnel is also quite large: 80 timekeepers total, including 43 lawyers, the firm said. The group files disclosures for somewhere near 190 lobbying clients.

Jankowsky said the “architecture” is changing for the lobbying business. Previously, when there was less of a partisan divide in Congress, lobbyists could work effectively by advocating before both caucuses. Now fewer routes for legislative negotiation remain.

Bates outlined a few goals he has so the group can still work within that framework and maintain its position. One is to keep hiring major talent. Another is to continue to operate the department as a small lobbying organization inside a law firm.

“I have always continued to feel no different from how I felt in my old firm,” said Pomper, who previously co-ran lobby shop Parven Pomper until Akin Gump acquired it in 2010. “I would lay down on the tracks for my clients, and that’s no different here.”

Bates has ties to Republican leadership, while Pomper, with experience working on the Senate Finance Committee, has insight into international trade, intellectual property and tax policy.

Akin Gump listed Pomper as a lobbyist for clients, including Chevron Corp., Monsanto and Pfizer Inc. last year. Bates’ public registrations from his time at Akin Gump won’t be available until later this month, though last year he worked as a lobbyist for Altria, Citigroup, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and Procter & Gamble. Both lobbyists counted United Parcel Service, several biotech companies and the leading biotechnology trade group among their clients.

As for their differing labels as an R and a D: “It’s my Midwestern super power to get along with virtually everybody,” Pomper said.

More lateral moves:

•  Jenner & Block, after a bumpy year for its partnership array in D.C., scored two laterals in the office this week. This is the second consecutive week Jenner & Block has named two new partners to the D.C. office. 

David Bitkower, a former principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division at the Justice Department, joins as a white-collar defense partner. And David Lynn, who was co-head of Morrison & Foerster’s corporate finance group, moved to Jenner & Block to be one of three co-chairs in the firm’s securities practice. He’s a former chief counsel of the Division of Corporation Finance at the U.S. Securities and Exchage Commission.

•  Bradley Bennett rejoined Baker Botts’ white-collar practice after serving as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s enforcement chief for six years. He had worked at the firm for a decade before his time in government. Before that, he was a partner at the now-defunct Miller, Cassidy, Larocca & Lewin, a firm that was once the “cradle of many illustrious careers.”

•  Steven Kupka lateraled to King & Spalding’s partnership and lobbying group last week. Kupka was Husch Blackwell’s government relations group leader and served as the D.C. office managing partner after he helped found the office in 2001. He said his practice evolved from a regional Midwestern clientele to one with more international work, including clients from the Middle East, Russia and with frequent work in Puerto Rico. “It was a difficult decision but really came down to my career as a whole and the advantages King & Spalding has on my practice,” he said. “I’m 56, so if you’re going to have a second act, [King & Spalding] was very good.” He said he hopes to make referrals from King & Spalding to Husch Blackwell, which merged with another Midwestern firm last year. Kupka’s two firms have geographically overlapping offices in only Austin and D.C.

•  With Kupka’s departure, Kyle Gilster, who’s also a lobbyist, will step into Husch Blackwell’s D.C. managing partner position.

•  Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck is making good on its boast that it’s in expansion mode in Washington. Greta Joynes, who served as deputy chief of staff and legislative director for Rep. John Shimkus, R-Illinois, joins the firm’s government relations team, though she’s not yet listed on the Brownstein website. A few weeks ago, Brownstein announced three other policy advisers had come aboard: Darien Flowers, Travis Norton and David Reid. Flowers joins from the office of a Republican senator, Norton comes from the Chamber of Commerce and Reid worked at Hillary for America.

•  Pennsylvania-centric Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott added John W. Ryan and Thomas Haas, both intellectual property and life sciences partners in D.C.

Ryan has bounded through several partnerships in the past 20 years. He was a partner at Dorsey & Whitney until 2000, then Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr until 2003, then Dechert until 2005, then Crowell & Moring until 2009. He held practice leadership roles at the first three firms, according to his LinkedIn page. He and Haas moved to Boston-based Sullivan & Worcester in 2009. Both worked briefly at Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani beginning last June, according to a firm press release. Haas previously worked for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where he was a patent examiner.

•  Squire Patton Boggs shook hands on a strategic alliance with Michael Cohen, a longtime Trump insider.

In other D.C.-area industry news:

•  Noel Francisco awaiting confirmation hearings for the solicitor general job by working in the DOJ front office. Kara Brockmeyer, a chief of enforcement for FCPA law, will leave the SEC at the end of this month.

•  Neil Gorsuch, freshly confirmed to the Supreme Court, will have a laundry list of responsibilities now. Tony Mauro walks through what awaits him at the court.

•  Morgan, Lewis & Bockius got an earful from a now-ex-client disgusted by the firm’s legal advice for President Donald Trump.

•  Find out here exactly how much your favorite current White House lawyers made in private practice, and who their clients were.

•  Consultants might still be citing “merger mania,” but a long-rumored Crowell & Moring combination with a firm in New York wasn’t meant to be.

•  Because Judge Rosemary Collyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is a citizen of #ThisTown, she invoked Bernie Sanders in a summary judgment about Hillary Clinton’s damn emails. (H/T @ZoeTillman)

•  Can’t wait for the release of the Am Law 100 list this year? Stories that focus firm by firm on results are collected here, and we have this handy roundup that focuses on the results of 10 major D.C. offices.

•  Finally,The National Law Journal can no longer be your fishwrapper. We’re a monthly glossy magazine now! Check out all the in-depth coverage from the inaugural edition, out April 1, including a look back at the trajectories of four top D.C. firms