The Human Rights Campaign has issued a report rating major law firms (among other large employers) on how well they address LGBT issues. It takes off points for law firms that have represented anti-gay clients, such as Foley & Lardner, which has represented opponents of gay marriage in litigation in the District of Columbia.
Many nonlawyers will not see anything unusual in this. The thing is, it’s a passionately held tenet of N.Y. Times-reader legal liberalism — sometimes, at least — that law firms must not be publicly shamed for electing to represent “bad” clients in important legal matters. After all, representing those clients does not necessarily mean they share the clients’ objectives or viewpoints. For example, former Bush administration defense official Cully Stimson was widely excoriated after he suggested that it was to the discredit of leading law firms that they had thrown a tremendous effort into the pro bono defense of Guantanamo detainees.
Elie Mystal at Above the Law and John Steele at Legal Ethics Forum are among those to raise the question whether there is any real consistency to all this. And does it make a difference whether the “bad” client is being represented pro bono, or is paying handsomely, as with Sen. Kristen Gillibrand’s repping of Big Tobacco as a young lawyer?