You won your arms case. You’re fired.

Written by Javed Iqbal

Paul Clement


Pool / Getty Images

A 6-3 victory at the Supreme Court confirming a constitutional right is usually cause for congratulations, but not these days at Kirkland & Ellis, the giant law firm with white shoes. The company has rewarded partner Paul Clement for his triumph on Thursday in the big New York gun rights case (see nearby) by asking him to drop his gun customers or leave the company.

Som Mr. Clement and his litigation partner, Erin Murphy, explain nearby, they are leaving the company instead of dumping their customers. It is the honorable and ethical decision.

But it is worth noting how extraordinary it is for a law firm to fire its victorious clients whose rights have been upheld by no fewer than six judges. It’s as if the law firm representing Clarence Gideon had asked him to get lost after the Supreme Court affirmed his right to legal advice in his famous 1963 case. Gideon v. Wainwright.

“Kirkland & Ellis today announced its decision to no longer represent customers with respect to issues involving the interpretation of the Second Amendment,” the firm said in a press release without explanation. It added that Mr. Clement and Ms. Murphy “will leave the firm to continue their full range of existing representations.”

That’s not how Kirkland felt when it recruited Mr. Clement and his famous appellate case law in 2016. A former U.S. Attorney General, Mr. Clement already represented the National Rifle Association and others involved in Second Amendment lawsuits at the time, and he made retaining those customers a condition of joining Kirkland.

But these days, advocates for gun rights are unpopular in the tony areas of Los Angeles and New York, where Kirkland represents business clients. When it comes to basic constitutional rights versus corporate homeowners financing the Hamptons, the Constitution is a second-class citizen.

This is the opposite of ethical legal representation. Clients who are unpopular are most in need of legal advice. Lawyers drop clients who lie or do not pay their bills. But Mr. Clement’s gun clients are individuals and state gun groups, such as the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, which won its case in the High Court on Thursday. Kirkland dumps customers who have done nothing wrong and who have lawsuits in lawsuits. Som Mr. Clement and Ms. Murphy put it: “We could not give up ongoing representations just because a client’s position is unpopular in some circles.”

As it happens, this is the second time Mr Clement has received a bail from a white-shoe law firm for one of his clients. In 2011, King & Spalding dropped the U.S. House of Representatives after the House retained Mr. Clement for defending the Constitution of the Defense of Marriage Act. Mr. Clement left King & Spalding to start his own practice before coming to Kirkland. He and Mrs Murphy are now planning to open their own appeals company.

Kirkland’s invertebrate illustration illustrates how progressive ideology dominates the dominant heights of American law, business, and culture. If you want to know why there is a wave of opposition to this waking conformity in the provinces, then this is it.

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Appeared in print on June 24, 2022 as ‘You Won Your Case’. You’re fired.’

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Javed Iqbal

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