Tell us about your top U.S. Supreme Court or federal circuit court victory over the past year and how you and your team achieved the win. Cooper v. Harris was one of two U.S. Supreme Court victories last term involving racial gerrymandering (the other was Bethune-Hill v. Virginia). In Cooper, the court struck down North Carolina’s First and 12th congressional districts as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. Our team had to prepare for both cases to be argued the same day. This took extraordinary commitment by the team of lawyers involved, including brief writing, argument selection and oral argument preparation. In the end, we were able to develop the legal doctrine of racial gerrymandering in a direction that more fully protects minority voters.
How did your firm approach appellate success over the past year? The key was preparation and teamwork. Cooper and Bethune-Hill were heard back-to-back on the same day—only one month after the presidential election (during which I was general counsel to the Clinton campaign). Without a great team, we could not have prevailed for our clients.
What practice advice would you give your younger self? 1. Become an expert in something. Don’t fear specialization, embrace it. Clients want experts, not generalists. 2. Don’t worry so much about your “career path.” Practice law for clients and causes you believe in. The rest will take care of itself.
Responses submitted by Marc Elias, a partner at Perkins Coie.