‘King & Spalding’ Law Firm to Face Backlash Over Defending DOMA

King & Spalding, the law firm which touts its policies against anti-LGBT discrimination but has placed a gag order on its employees following the hiring by GOP Republicans of firm partner Paul Clement to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, will likely face backlash from legal groups and colleges with regard to recruitment and other issues, the Huffington Post reports:

Kingspalding Administrators at some of Washington, D.C.'s top law schools said it is too early to tell whether King & Spalding's role in defending DOMA will sour students from potentially joining the firm; they also couldn't say whether anything could change with their university's recruitment practices. But they did say they take the concerns voiced by their student bodies very seriously.

Tedi Mason, the recruitment coordinator for American University’s Washington School of Law, said the school's gay and lesbian student group Lambda Law Society is “very active” on campus and if brought complaints, the administration "would certainly consider” what they had to say. She predicted protests and student groups “putting up a big to-do” if and when the firm comes to the campus to recruit students.

Lambda Legal legal director Jon Davidson says they won't be involved with the firm any longer: "As legal director, I would take the position that we should not use them as cooperating attorneys with us — that is, people who work with us on a pro bono basis in cases. "I wouldn't want to team with them, so long as they're actively harming our community by defending DOMA."

DOMA Firm's Gag Order Revealed [tr]
DOMA Defense to Cost American Taxpayers $500K, Maybe More [tr]
House Files Motion to Intervene in DOMA Lawsuit [tr]
Former Bush Solicitor General Paul Clement to Lead DOMA Defense [tr]
DOMA-Defending Attorney Paul Clement's Firm is Proud of its Pro-LGBT Policies [tr]


  1. Miffy says

    The law schools aren’t going to bar a top firm from interviewing on campus, and law students will continue interviewing with them.

    Paul Clement is a former solicitor general. That is a MAJOR business generator for the firm.

    As long as King and Spaulding has LGBT friendly employment policies, they will still claim to be LGBT friendly.

    Having Lambda pull out isn’t going to hurt them. And pissing off a few law school students won’t hurt them either.

    I’m annoyed as anyone about this. But acting like the firm will pay for its involvement is just a waste of energy.

  2. Chicago says

    I used to be an attorney at Sidley Austin, which represented Colorado on the wrong side of the Amendment 2 case. While they weren’t barred from any campuses, they faced tough questions in interviews from students for years. And the representation caused internal angst at the firm for a long time, along with efforts by the firm to appear more pro-gay. I believed that we got domestic partner benefits earlier than we would have otherwise as a response to this.

  3. Bob says

    Say what you will, lawyers are always crucified for taking on (un)popular clients or causes. We’re not whores. We make the justice system work. I hope their position fails miserably, sure, but don’t dump on the porter who carries the luggage.

  4. mstrozfckslv@yahoo.com says

    Sorry BOb but if the nukes start falling the last people that will be let in the shelters, if at all, are the lawyers

    Don’t get mad at reality just realize that you do not make society or any future society run as much as you and other lawyers might think

    Not to come off too mean, bankers and business CEos also will find it hard to get in the shelters

    The shelters will be full of doctors, nurses, vets, farmers, scientists, electricians, and soldiers

  5. exsidleynycadmin says

    “The law schools aren’t going to bar a top firm from interviewing on campus, and law students will continue interviewing with them.”

    Learn your history, dear. The ex-Sidley attorney understates what happened with them. One of the largest law firms in the world was turned into a pariah regarding college recruitment overnight and they paid the price in many ways for being anti-gay for years. And not just by the gays; every up and coming attorney had to question whether or not they wanted to put up with this at their first or new firm. And this was in the 90s. These bozos at King & Spalding are so screwed.

    I’m assuming you’re very young. That’s no excuse for getting your facts wrong while pretending to be an authority. In fact, don’t do that even if you’re not so young.

  6. I'm Layla Miller I Know Stuff says

    The letter of the law versus the spirit of the law

    The letter of the law versus the spirit of the law is an idiomatic antithesis. When one obeys the letter of the law but not the spirit, one is obeying the literal interpretation of the words (the “letter”) of the law, but not the intent of those who wrote the law. Conversely, when one obeys the spirit of the law but not the letter, one is doing what the authors of the law intended, though not adhering to the literal wording.

    “Law” originally referred to legislative statute, but in the idiom may refer to any kind of rule. Intentionally following the letter of the law but not the spirit may be accomplished through exploiting technicalities, loopholes, and ambiguous language. Following the letter of the law but not the spirit is also a tactic used by oppressive governments.

  7. exsidleynycadmin says

    “Paul Clement is a former solicitor general. That is a MAJOR business generator for the firm.”

    Rex E. Lee was the atttorney who brought the Hate State Supreme Court case to Sidley. Who was he? Read it and weep:

    “Rex Edwin Lee (February 27, 1935—March 11, 1996) from St. Johns, Arizona was a Constitutional lawyer, a law clerk for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White, and the United States Solicitor General under the Reagan administration. He argued 59 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. A Latter-day Saint (Mormon), Lee was an alumnus and the tenth president of Brigham Young University.”


    His being a former Solicitor General didn’t stop Sidley’s anti-gay case from causing major damage to the firm’s reputation. Did it destroy them as a business? No. But a firm is nothing without its reputation.

    King & Spalding will be spending at least the next several years having to rebuild theirs.

  8. just_a_guy says

    @Bob. Ok, but (while I haven’t studied the gag order) it sure seems unconscionably broad. Like attorneys there with no connection to the case whatsoever, with no exposure to any information or anything, could be fired for, say, posting something pro-gay-equality on facebook. And not giving these guys maximum hell over this would encourage other firms to discriminate against gay people by accepting similar extreme gag orders from anti-gay clients.

  9. just_a_guy says

    And the King & Spaulding attorneys even did their bigoted client a disservice here by agreeing to sign such an onerous gag clause. They should have known better; PR nightmare, duh.

    Or else they just don’t like gay people. Always possible; their client hates gay people.

  10. candideinnc says

    High profile law firms in the ’60s who professed to be forward thinking refused to represent segregationist causes in court. They didn’t want the stigma of being associated with regressive political causes. King and Spaulding are tarnishing their company’s name in a way that is irreversible by fighting the tide of justice that will inevitably consign bigoted laws like DOMA the trash heap of history. They are sellouts for what they have to know is an unworthy cause.

  11. Zach says

    “Don’t get mad at reality just realize that you do not make society or any future society run as much as you and other lawyers might think”

    Almost every action you take in a modern – or future – society is determined by layers of standards and practices. Rules that are absolutely essential, and rules which have to interact with other rules. Unless you plan to live as a hermit on a mountain, you’re dependent on those rules, to give some predictability to your life, and occasionally recourse when something does not adhere to the rules.

  12. mstrozfckslv@yahoo.com says


    lawyers are at the bottom of the list on survival


    Janitors rank far above lawyers in a survival situation

    someone needs to clean the toilets etc to prevent disease and infections. Groups can live quite a long time without lawyers

  13. mstrozfckslv@yahoo.com says


    I recomend people read ONE SECOND AFTER by William R. Forstechen

    A fictional account of a high atmospheric nuke attack on america that causes an emp pulse shorting out all technology within thousands of miles in every direction from the blast (in the story only 3 nukes necessary) per US millitary tests only 1 if properly built is necessary and detonated high in the atmosphere to trigger a nation wide emp pulse sending us back to the dark ages

    Lawyers, PR reps, bankers, etc are the loosers in the aftermath because they have no qualifications or abilities to even extend their own lives let alone anyone elses

    Doctor’s , nurses, Vets, farmers, Soldiers, Scientists, Electricians will always be the premium /necessary bedrock to survival and societies

  14. BobN says

    Given our (ridiculously) adversarial system, you can defend them taking the case. Given the internal employment agreements and understandings in place and the way law firm employees generally conduct themselves anyway, there was no justification for the gag order.

    Ten to one, some gay staffer to some GOP Congressman (yes, -man) authored that little bit of fascism. Probably a GOProuder.

  15. just_a_guy says

    @MSTR, ur correct. But Zach is also correct. We can survive without a system of justice. But then, who really wants to live in that world. Based on the role of lawyers, it seems like they can be in a position to be leaders for a better world. Or, like the guy BobN theorizes about, they can show themselves to be empty technocrats. I guess each one has that choice, and it would seem to apply in other professions too.

  16. John says

    DC’s “‘top’ law schools” (which, except for Georgetown, are actually pretty mediocre on a national scale) will not boycott a large firm from coming to OCI, and the legal market is so awful that law students will take a job anywhere they can get it– especially from schools like American, GW, etc. which don’t place well at larger firms regardless.

    This whole thing is overstated. No law student is going to turn down a job at King & Spalding because of one case. And they won’t ask questions about it in an interview lest they not get offered. Ridiculous.

  17. just_a_guy says

    Oh, and King and Spaulding seems to have abdicated any possible higher mission for themselves as lawyers by signing that gag clause, I imagine effectively also indicating that the whole firm agrees to ONLY be empty yes-men / yes-women to their offensive client. So much for the legal profession, eh.

  18. just_a_guy says

    True that, John. But will they stick around in five years when they have a better offer, even if for a little less pay?

    Representing clients with extreme views is one thing. but i swear that gag clause seems a whole different ball of wax. How commonly are gag clauses written that broadly??

  19. just_a_guy says

    And, John, you’d hope some WISE law students WOULD turn down such offers, even if it hurt the wallet in the short term.

    I do think that to get to the place CANDIDEINC describes regarding marriage-equality would require leadership from firm leaders–and not solely because it’s in the obvious interest of the firm.

    I also privately suspect Spaulding and King might be oblivious still to the whole situation. It’s easy to THINK ur on a moral high road if u only listen to news from, say, Glen Beck or Pat Robertson. I’ve heard about law firms like that anyway.

  20. says


    I have already contacted them twice regarding this, giving them a piece of my mind. But I would now like to contact their clients to let them also know I will not be doing business with them anymore. PR disasters dont just happen because people feel offended, we have to make this PR disaster happen, add as much fuel to the fire as possible.

  21. Miffy says

    “I’m assuming you’re very young. That’s no excuse for getting your facts wrong while pretending to be an authority. In fact, don’t do that even if you’re not so young.”

    Yes, I am young. I’m a recent law school graduate. I am talking about the current recruiting environment. And, yes, I don think I’m more of an authority on that than experienced lawyers.

    The fact is that the legal market is abysmal for entry level attorney positions. 2nd year summer associateship availability is at a fraction of what it was just a few years ago. Meanwhile, tuition and enrollment have both skyrocketed, meaning there are a lot of jobless law grads with 100k+ debt burdens. Very few law students have the luxury these days of refusing interviews with top firms like King and Spaulding due to ideological disagreements.

    Read the article again. “Gihan Fernando, Assistant Dean for Career Services at Georgetown Law, said King & Spalding has been recruiting at the university for years and said he expects more recruiting in the future. But if students are upset about their presence and want to air complaints to the administration, he said the school is welcome to hear them.” The translation: some students are going to be unhappy. The schools will listen to their complaints, but they’re not going to change anything.

    Don’t come in here and tell me I don’t know my facts and then start lecturing me about something that happened over a decade ago as if it’s still relevant. It’s a different world.

  22. TruthSeeker_Too says

    Here’s K&S’s “representative client list” from their web site.
    Note that Google is on it, among others.

    Arcapita Bank B.S.C.
    Bank of America
    Baxter International
    Boehringer Ingelheim
    Chevron USA
    ChoicePoint, Inc.
    CitiGroup – CitiBank
    The Coca-Cola Company
    Cooper Industries
    Credit Suisse Securities
    CVS Caremark Corporation
    Delta Airlines
    Duke Energy Corporation
    Eli Lilly
    Ernst & Young
    Eurx Properties SCA
    Exxon Mobil Corporation
    General Electric Company
    General Motors Corporation
    Georgia-Pacific Corporation
    Goldman Sachs
    HDG Mansur Investment Services Inc.
    Hoffman-LaRoche The Home Depot
    Honeywell International Inc.
    IVG Institutional Funds GmbH
    Johnson & Johnson
    Lockheed Martin Corporation
    Morgan Stanley
    Mubadala Development Corporation
    Nokia Corporation
    Prudential Capital Group
    Purdue Pharma L.P.
    Roark Capital Group
    RJ Reynolds
    Shell Oil Company
    Sprint Nextel Corporation
    SunTrust Banks, Inc.
    UCB, Inc.
    Wachovia / Wells Fargo
    WellCare Health Plans, Inc.

  23. TruthSeeker_Too says

    The gag order is not enforceable and violates the laws of the state of New York and California (two states where the firm has offices). You’d think if you were a decent lawyer they might have figured that out BEFORE signing.

    How f*cked up it that the Republican Party insists that the 1st Amendment not apply to citizens of the U.S. working to defend the constitutionality of a law they passed?

    Here’s what is in the contract according to reports:

    “Partners and employees who do not perform services pursuant to this Agreement will not engage in lobbying or advocacy for or against any legislation… that would alter or amend in any way the Defense of Marriage Act and is pending before either the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate or any committee of either body during the term of the Agreement.”

    This contract provision if surely offensive, but it’s illegal in several states where the firm has offices. NEW YORK law, for instance, states:
    Unless otherwise provided by law, it shall be unlawful for any employer or employment agency to refuse to hire, employ or license, or to discharge from employment or otherwise discriminate against an individual in compensation, promotion or terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of:
    an individual’s political activities outside of working hours, off of the employer’s premises and without use of the employer’s equipment or other property, if such activities are legal…
    McKinney’s Labor Law § 201-d (2)(a)

    Similarly, the CALIFORNIA labor code states:
    [N]o employer shall make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy… [f]orbidding or preventing employees from engaging or participating in politics…

  24. BobC562 says

    The gag order is illegal as applied to California employees pursuant to Labor Code Sec. 1101 and since the gag is imposed based on a contract with the government, is impermissible prior-restraint under the First Amendment. And look at the retainer: There isn’t a fixed amount of $500k, it’s just that if the firm hits $500k, which it, discounted rates notwithstanding (and not that much of a discount, and since it’s a blended rate, the lowliest associate will be charging almost double what that perosn’s usual hourly rate would be), will hit with no problem. AND THEN the firm gets to pull out unless Congress ponies up some more money. It’s a total ripoff on all sides by people that you’d think would know better.

  25. Joe in CT says

    Actually, finding out who their corporate clients are and making that information public is brilliant. I want to know if my company does business with these Republican water boys.

  26. FunMe says

    EXSIDLEYNYCADMIN makes a good point about that it is not just GLBT people that will be upset. There are many straight folks in the legal profession who are on the side of equality for all, after all it is the LAW they follow.

    I totally believe this will be a DISASTROUS PR nightmare for the firm, especially because the changes of King Spalding LOSING are VERY high.

  27. Rob says

    I think it’s perfectly fair to judge the corporate culture at this firm by the fact that they were even asked to handle this case (embarrassing enough). The fact that they are willing to throw themselves into it is still worse. I hope it shows what conservative bigots they are, and turns into a real nightmare for them.

    I’d like to see HRC pressure all of the clients listed above to take their business elsewhere. Lawyers are starving for work, so there must be a few ethical ones somewhere…

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