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Solo & Small Law Firms

Biglaw Manages, Solo Manages to Do

In any universe other than the one inside the Beltway, attorney Paul Zukerberg would be the overwhelmingly favorite to serve as the first elected Attorney General of the District of Columbia. Zukerberg has the legal chops for the job; he’s practiced law in Washington D.C. for twenty-eight years, focusing on complex traumatic brain injury cases on the civil side to and marijuana and drug possession on the criminal sides.

But Zukerberg doesn’t just practice law, he changes it too. He’s been instrumental in galvanizing the movement to decriminalize pot in DC – which took effect in July 2014. And in fact, there wouldn’t even be a direct DC Attorney General election this fall at all but for Zukerberg’s successful lawsuit  to overturn a DC Council decision to postpone the elections until 2018.

Yet despite Zukerberg’s vast body of work, the Washington Post questions his qualifications and ultimately, endorsed his opponent, Karl Racine. The reason? Racine hails from venerable Venable, a prominent D.C. based big law firm, while Zukerberg’s solo. And in a stratified company town like DC, it doesn’t matter what solos do or how much they accomplish (including beating big law at the Supremes), at the end of the day, they’re still small potatoes in comparison to big law. 

Of course, the Post  tries to pretend that its endorsement isn’t based only on Racine’s big law status, explaining that Racine’s experience as managing partner at big law will give him the ability to manage the AG’s office. (as an aside, Jeff Bezos, one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs should be hanging his head in shame as the newspaper he bought elevates management skills over innovation). The Post’s argument is disingenuous for two reasons. First, managing a big law firm – an entity with abundant financial resources and access to pricy outside consultants is a far cry from managing a cash-strapped and often dysfunctional government bureaucracy.  Indeed, a strappy solo like Zukerberg, while’s managed complex cases and criminal defense clients presumably on a tight budget would outperform a big-law insider. But second and more to the point – government already has plenty of managers; it needs leaders which is what solos like Zukerberg bring to the table.

Although Zukerberg remains first in the polls, the effect of the Post’s endorsement is not insignificant. As political strategist Chuck Thies observes, the endorsement “could swing the kind of engaged voters who read Post editorials but haven’t followed the race closely enough to pick a candidate yet.”

Of course, what’s best about solos is that you can never count us out. We never stop hustling and we pull out impossible victories through force of will and sheer doggedness. Mr. Zukerbeg is one of us solos and like us, we know that he can’t be stopped in this historic quest. Go solo go!