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If this year’s congressional class has proven anything, it’s that people from all walks of life can occupy a congressional seat. The 2019 class is more diverse than ever before—and not only in terms of race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Political success can now be achieved by individuals from any number of professional tracks, not just those who have strong backgrounds in politics or those who worked their way up in Big Law before running for office. A career path in small or midsize law is now just as likely to lead to a seat in congress as a Big Law career. Below we highlight 13 of the new congressional members who have backgrounds in small and midsize law.
1. GREG STEUBE (R-Fla.): The Republican representative from Florida’s 17th Congressional District, Steube came from Becker & Poliakoff, a midsize firm with offices throughout Florida, Washington D.C., New York and New Jersey. Before coming on board at Becker, Steube served as an attorney for two small firms, Najmy Thompson and Macfarlane Ferguson & McMullen.
2. ED CASE (D-Hawaii): The Democratic representative from Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District, Case practiced property and business law at two small firms in Honolulu: Bays Lung Rose & Holma, where he served as managing attorney, and Carlsmith Ball, where he served as managing partner.
3. KELLY ARMSTRONG (R-ND): The Republican representative from North Dakota’s At-Large Congressional District, Armstrong owns his own small law firm, Grand Forks-based Reichert Armstrong, where he serves as partner.
4. XOCHITL TORRES SMALL (D-NM): The Democratic representative from New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, Torres Small came from small law firm Kemp Smith, which has offices throughout Texas and New Mexico.
5. ANTONIO DELGADO (D-NY): The Democratic representative from New York’s 19th Congressional District, Delgado came to his congressional seat from Big Law, but he got his start at a small law firm: Delgado served as a litigation associate at the Law Offices of Brian D. Witzer, a personal injury and traumatic brain injury firm in Los Angeles.
6. ANTHONY BRINDISI (D-NY): The Democratic representative from New York’s 22nd Congressional District, Brindisi served as partner at the Utica-based personal injury firm Brindisi, Murad, Brindisi, and Pearlman.
7. KENDRA HORN (D-Okla.): The Democratic representative for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District—and the first Democrat since the 1970s to hold the seat—Horn got her start in small law, working as an attorney for Texas-based firm Braumiller and Rodriguez.
8. SUSAN WILD (D-Pa.): The Democratic representative from Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District, Wild serves as partner at Gross McGinley, which has several office locations across Pennsylvania.
9. JOE CUNNINGHAM (D-SC): The Democratic representative from South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, Cunningham comes to the congressional seat from Charleston contract development and analysis law firm Lyles & Lyles.
10. LIZZIE PANNILL FLETCHER (D-Texas): The Democratic representative from Texas’s 7th Congressional District, Pannill Fletcher comes from Houston-based trial firm Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing (AZA), where she served as partner.
11. BEN CLINE (R-Va.): The Republican representative from Virginia’s 6th Congressional District, Cline owns his own practice in Lexington, Virginia: Ben Cline, Attorney-at-Law.
12. JENNIFER WEXTON (D-Va.): The Democratic representative from Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, Wexton is a partner at Leesburg law firm Ritenour, Paice, Mougin-Boal & Wexton.
13. GUY RESCHENTHALER (R-Pa.): The Republican representative from Pennsylvania’s 14th Congressional District, Reschenthaler worked as an attorney at Pittsburgh-based Brennan, Robins & Daley.
While there is something to be said for the level of prestige and high-caliber client work that typically comes with a Big Law background, it’s important to bear in mind that attorneys who have worked in a smaller law firm environment have most likely had more hands-on experience and client interaction than those who were employed at big firms. In other words, the additional responsibility many small firm attorneys have early on in their careers may lead to decision-making skills that lend themselves to a career in politics. What’s more, the generally tighter budgets of smaller firms force these attorneys to “do more with less”—i.e., get creative in order to maximize the value of available resources, a skill that is certainly desirable in any congressional candidate. As the worlds of small and Big Law creep ever closer together, the congressional class of 2019 further punctuates the small but mighty mantra of the small and midsize legal market.
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