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Kirkland & Ellis Law Firm Forces Out Conservative Superstar Paul Clement After He Won Big SCOTUS 2nd Amendment Case

Kirkland & Ellis Law Firm Forces Out Conservative Superstar Paul Clement After He Won Big SCOTUS 2nd Amendment Case

WSJ Editorial Board: “Kirkland’s invertebrate abdication illustrates how progressive ideology dominates the commanding heights of American law, business and culture. If you want to know why a groundswell of opposition against this woke conformity is building in the provinces, this is it.”

We have covered the loss not only of institutions, but also institutional norms. Medicine and the sciences, once thought to have natural immunity, now are infected with progressive political orthodoxy. It goes on and on, including not only law schools, but also the American Bar Association Council, the dominant law school accreditor. Oh, and the large corporations are some of the worst offenders through HR reigns of terror, but you knew that.

But it doesn’t stop there. The large law firms that represent large corporations also are corrupted.

We covered one such case back in 2011, when conservative superstar lawyer Paul Clement was forced to leave the large law firm King & Spalding after Clement agreed to represent the House of Representatives in the Defense of Marriage Act case. Private representation for the House was necessary because the Obama Justice Department, after having defended the legality of DOMA, suddenly dropped the representation and claimed DOMA was unlawful. After King & Spalding came under activst pressure, which included junior lawyers threatening to quit, disruption of law school recruiting, and threatened protests at King & Spalding clients (the largest of which was Coca Cola), King & Spalding dropped the representation. But it still represented Gitmo detainees. Clement, to his credit, refused to drop the House as a client, and was forced to leave King & Spalding.

A little over a decade later, Clement has faced the same problem at Kirkland & Ellis, a massive law firm that represents much of corporate America and is reported to have among the highest partner compensation, well into the seven figure range. Kirkland has a large pro bono program, where it provides thousands of hours of free legal service to mostly progressive clients and issues.

Clement was lead counsel in the U.S. Supreme Court Bruen case which found NY State’s concealed carry restrictions to be unconstitutional. SCOTUS has come under withering attack from Democrats and the media for the decision, which vigorously defended citizen rights under the 2nd Amendment.

Kirkland & Ellis folded, much as King & Spalding folded a decade earlier, and Clement faced a choice – end his 2nd Amendment law practice, or leave the firm, which no longer would seek to uphold the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Clement left the firm rather than give up such an important constitutional law practice and abandon his clients.

Clement and his law partner Erin Murphy wrote about it in The Wall Street Journal:

We are blessed to have represented before the Supreme Court a wide variety of clients, from large corporations and religious orders to criminal defendants and Native American groups. After we prevail before the high court, we generally receive a round of congratulatory messages from law-firm colleagues for a job well done, especially when we have helped our clients vindicate their fundamental constitutional rights.

This time around, we received a very different message from our law firm. Having just secured a landmark decision vindicating our clients’ constitutional Second Amendment rights in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, we were presented with a stark choice—withdraw from representing them or withdraw from the firm. There was only one choice: We couldn’t abandon our clients simply because their positions are unpopular in some circles….

This isn’t the first time we have left a firm to stick by a client. What makes this circumstance different is that the firm approved our representation of these clients years ago, and dropping them would cost the clients years of institutional memory. More remarkable still, in one of the cases we were asked to drop, we prevailed in the Supreme Court on Thursday. Those who object to the representation are thus taking issue with the Constitution as interpreted by a majority of the high court.

Kirkland & Ellis cared more about remaining popular in the prevailing progressive legal world than in fulfilling the highest duties of lawyers. Clement continued:

The Constitution is the foundation of American liberty, but it isn’t self-executing. It depends on lawyers who are willing to take on controversial matters and on judges who are able to hear the best possible arguments from both sides. The Supreme Court’s jurisdiction is limited to cases and controversies, which means the justices can’t uphold rights without an advocate to make the argument.

The American legal profession’s willingness to take on and stand by controversial clients has made our system of justice the envy of the world. The profession shouldn’t back down from its willingness to tackle the most divisive issues. We certainly won’t.

Our decision, then, has little to do with the issues in this case and everything to do with the underlying principle. We would make the same choice for any of our clients. The scope of the Second Amendment and the plague of gun violence are more controversial than the Federal Arbitration Act or even religious speech. But that makes resisting the pressure to drop an unpopular client all the more crucial. The problems posed by the spate of recent violent gun crimes are real. But the solution isn’t to fire clients who have just vindicated a fundamental constitutional right. We are sticking with our clients.

Clement & Murphy are stand up people who bring honor to the best traditions of the legal profession. Kirlkand & Ellis are not.

“Paul and Erin have been valued colleagues,” said Jon A. Ballis, Chairman of Kirkland’s Executive Committee. “We wish them the best of luck in the future and we look forward to collaborating with them in the future in matters not involving the Second Amendment.”

Law Professor Jonathan Turley notes that what Kirkland & Ellis did to Clement & Murphy reflects a deepening problem in the legal profession, attempts by Democrat activists to deprive Republicans and conservatives of legal representation:

As previously discussed, there has been a campaign from the left to pressure firms to force out Republican lawyers or to drop conservative clients (with the support of lawyers and legal commentators). Now, after former Solicitor General Paul Clement and his colleague Erin Murphy won one of the most significant constitutional victories in history, Kirkland & Ellis has yielded to the mob and forced them out of the firm. It seems that, if you want to take a Second Amendment case, you should have the decency of losing. In a column in the Wall Street Journal, the lawyers recount how they were shown the door after objections from lawyers in the firm and clients. The left appears to be channeling the views of Dick the Butcher in Shakespeare’s Henry VI that “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

With no sense of shame or self-awareness, Jon Ballis, chairman of Kirkland’s executive committee, said “We wish them the best of luck in the future and look forward to collaborating with them in matters not involving the Second Amendment.”Imagine if the firm said that about defending other individuals rights like equal protection or privacy. It is not hard because that was the position at one time where lawyers were told not to represent women, civil rights groups, or other causes.

Now, it is the left that is pressuring firms not to represent those asserting rights contained in the Bill of Rights. Ballis is saying that you are welcome to return as long as you do not represent those people who want to submit claims to the federal courts on constitutional rights.

Megan McArdle in The Washington Post makes a similar point:

Lawyers used to have a standard response to people who complained about their choice of clients: Everyone, no matter how noxious, deserves representation. A Washington law firm might find itself representing Richard M. Nixon and Ted Kennedy at the same time; the American Civil Liberties Union could end up defending the right of Nazis to march through a Jewish neighborhood in Skokie, Ill.

So it’s troubling to see a major firm not just ruling out a whole category of cases but also forcing its attorneys to choose between representing their current clients or keeping their jobs….

This is obviously bad for conservative lawyers, and for a society that aspires to liberal values. But it’s not great for the left, as it essentially doubles down on a strategy that has already failed: using the left’s control over key institutions to essentially rule some ideas, or policies, out of bounds.

Kirkland & Ellis probably doesn’t care, and its partners will continue to make millions a year. But it shamed itself, and contributes in ways it is incapable of understanding to the growing backlash, as The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote:

Kirkland’s invertebrate abdication illustrates how progressive ideology dominates the commanding heights of American law, business and culture. If you want to know why a groundswell of opposition against this woke conformity is building in the provinces, this is it.

The backlash is going to be glorious.


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“…Kirkland & Ellis did to Clement & Ellis … ”
Make that Clement and Murphy.

Early in my college days, due to my ignorance, I quite favored the ACLU. Live and learn. Kudos to Clement and Murphy. Learning is a lifelong effort.

    Milhouse in reply to ray. | July 3, 2022 at 12:31 am

    Early in your college days it didn’t take ignorance to support the ACLU. For about 50 years the ACLU was a force for good in the USA. It wasn’t right on every issue, but overall it made the USA a far better place than it would have been without it. But somewhere around the turn of the century it started to lose its way, and now, while some branches still do some good, it can never be relied on and is more likely to side against liberty than for it.

      ernest1000 in reply to Milhouse. | July 3, 2022 at 7:42 am

      That’s a crock.

        henrybowman in reply to ernest1000. | July 5, 2022 at 1:31 am

        The ACLU I grew up with was always suck on the 2A, but at least they had the principle to defend the right of the Nazis to march through Jewish Skokie. Nowadays, they panic if someone just says “free speech” at one of their meetings.

      4rdm2 in reply to Milhouse. | July 3, 2022 at 8:41 am

      Just for the heck of it, list some of the good things they did in those fifty years.

        Milhouse in reply to 4rdm2. | July 3, 2022 at 8:54 am

        For fifty years the ACLU was a reliable defender of the freedom of speech, for everyone. Even the Nazis in Skokie. For fifty years it defended the free exercise of religion, so long as it was on private property. For fifty years it could be relied on to defend the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth amendments. Its only flaws were that it left defending the second amendment to others, and that it took a view of the establishment clause that amounted in practice to hostility to all exercise of religion on public property.

      M Poppins in reply to Milhouse. | July 4, 2022 at 11:56 am

      I disagree – the ACLU was always a leftist front.

        Milhouse in reply to M Poppins. | July 4, 2022 at 12:06 pm

        The facts say otherwise. It started as a communist front, but then the liberals kicked the commies out and ran it as a straight liberal organization, defending everyone’s liberty for the sake of liberty itself. It didn’t start wandering off that path until about the turn of the century.

      Henry P in reply to Milhouse. | July 4, 2022 at 1:33 pm

      Milhouse is basically right, but he has his timeline wrong. William Donahue’s book on the ACLU states that from “1940 to the late 1960s, the ACLU moved to the center and practiced a principled commitment to civil liberties.” He goes on to say “Beginning in the 1960s the ACLU became repoliticized, embracing every statist prescription that advanced equal outcomes.” (p.8) The rot started much sooner than the “turn of the century,” as Milhouse asserts. You cannot have “equal outcomes” and “civil liberties.”
      The ACLU is now just another very wealthy, left-wing, statist organization that pushes policies very much in keeping with its original Leninist/Stalinist infatuation. It apes the odious Southern Poverty Law Center more than any reasonable organization dedicated to individual rights. It abhors and has litigated against religious liberties, school choice, bans on kiddie porn, parental notification for minors involved in medical procedures, the right of self defense with guns, the power of schools to keep drugs out of schools, etc. etc. It continues to get good press as if it really cared about “civil liberties.” The media never seems to get around to looking beyond the label; that takes too much work.

        Milhouse in reply to Henry P. | July 4, 2022 at 8:54 pm

        Donahue is not exactly a reliable source. He’s a partisan fighter making a partisan case. What he wrote in 1994 wasn’t completely without any basis, but it was mostly wrong at the time. But in the years since he wrote it, much of it has come true.

Jon Ballis and his fellow haters of 2A deserve a few emails and phone calls. Make that a few thousand.

There actually is material in the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, and, in state Bar codifications of ethical practice, stating that lawyers shouldn’t deny legal services to potential clients because of their personal unpopularity.

By kicking out two major partners because they have represented unpopular clients and an unpopular cause (at least, unpopular in the view of the obnoxiously totalitarian Dumb-o-crats), Kirkland is essentially violating the spirit of the rules of ethical legal practice.

    alaskabob in reply to guyjones. | July 2, 2022 at 11:39 pm

    This also raises the issue of a lawyer/firm intentionally taking a case to make sure the client loses. Rules? Ethics?

      FreeBop in reply to alaskabob. | July 4, 2022 at 9:06 am

      Jon Ballis at Kirkland & Ellis should be subjected to an ethics investigation and if there are consequences for his law license, so be it

      henrybowman in reply to alaskabob. | July 5, 2022 at 1:33 am

      How can there be such a rule?
      Lawyers for federal agencies do this all the time, under the instruction of their bosses.

      drsamherman in reply to alaskabob. | July 8, 2022 at 8:57 am

      In this current extremist political climate, legal ethics is an oxymoron.

No one should use firms like these. They will turn on you if you are not pure in the world view.

Megan McArdle used to be considered lefty. The Dem party has slid all the way past her.

    Subotai Bahadur in reply to artichoke. | July 2, 2022 at 10:52 pm

    She is still a Leftist, It is just that the Democrat Party does not believe [whether that belief is correct or not] that they have to conceal their collectivist totalitarian beliefs anymore because they hold power and do not plan on letting it go, ever, by whatever means.

    Subotai Bahadur

Well if I’m ever rich and need a good lawyer…found my manic the Professor doesn’t take private cases

I read this and wanted to vomit!

“Paul and Erin have been valued colleagues,” said Jon A. Ballis, Chairman of Kirkland’s Executive Committee. “We wish them the best of luck in the future and we look forward to collaborating with them in the future in matters not involving the Second Amendment.”

My first thought is, I sure as hell hope they meet you pansies in the courtroom and take you behind the shed…
You won’t be coming back…

Steven Brizel | July 2, 2022 at 10:53 pm

Paul Clement is a great lawyer and fierce defender of unpopular causes

Subotai Bahadur | July 2, 2022 at 10:55 pm

Professor, it cannot be denied anymore that we are two or more hostile nations trapped with each other inside one set of borders. And only one of those nations believes in the rule of law, consent of the governed, the Constitution, and legal [or any other kind of] ethics. It is what it is.

Subotai Bahadur

    CommoChief in reply to Subotai Bahadur. | July 3, 2022 at 8:34 am

    Yeah. It’s not a 100% yet but it’s getting there.

    One side still accepts consent of the governed as expressed at the ballot box, the principles of Federalism allowing each State to tailor laws to their own culture and history, a Congress and Executive that act within limits imposed by the Constitution.

    Other side is happy to use and endorse the above but only when the issue is decided in their favor. Their overall philosophy seems to be a narcissistic demand for power and compliance with their objectives and any dissent squashed by the power of the State.

    The Dobbs decision may result in an acceleration of the ongoing ‘Great Sorting’ as people move to areas which more closely align with their own political philosophy. Those who chose to remain behind the lines in a State hostile to their beliefs should definitely reconsider their choice not to relocate to a more welcoming area.

    smalltownoklahoman in reply to Subotai Bahadur. | July 3, 2022 at 9:13 am

    Yeah, kinda my thoughts on this too. This kind of shit behavior (and make no mistake, it is what I just called it) just further fuels the divide our country seems to be on.

    Another way to define the problem is to do it within the Constitutional construct. It comes down to states that are already surrendering their rights to a federal government that is surrendering to a global government vs those who want to remain a free US under the Constitution. Since it is the states who agreed to create the federal government in the first place and signed a contract via the US Constitution, it is time for those states to call that Article V Convention of the States to at least explore the possibility of agreeing to fight the federal government’s unlawful power grab away from the states.

    That would require a minimum number of states and if we can’t muster up enough states willing to even discuss reining in the rogue federal government, that would at least make it clear where each state stands. The states calling for that convention could then call for a different convention, a Convention of Constitutional States to discuss an orderly separation from the rogue federal tyranny.

    The very act of calling for this convention would send a chill up everyone’s spines and force all citizens to face the reality of what is happening. Make a decision. We either march like sheep into a 3rd world tyranny that is already largely in place, or those states that still have the resolve to fight it take action to dissolve the corrupt status quo and reorganize under the US Constitution. As everyone is sits in stunned silence, a date is then set to make that convention happen. Let’s get this thing moving and give everyone something to to think about on a very personal level.

    There is no reason why getting this going couldn’t happen quickly. Maybe a group of governors coud petition to start an open discussion? I predict this would soon begin what will quickly grow to millions of people voting with their feet to pick sides. Reality staring people in the face is a scary thing, a powerful motivator. Freedom or tyranny? Make a decision.

    Before this turns into another thread about how “trying is the first step to failure”, how about everyone thinking of ways how we can make this happen. Shock the Uniparty into facing a different reality other than merely consolidating their gains for one last time. Open the abyss at their feet.

      rebelgirl in reply to Pasadena Phil. | July 4, 2022 at 8:44 am Check this out…it’s already happening and has been for a while..

        I am well of Mark “Slash” Levin’s efforts regarding his Convention of States and support it wholeheartedly. It’s taking a very long time. I believe at some point, if we can’t get enough states to agree to it, we table it for a while and move on to a Convention of Constitutional States for the purpose of discussing dissolving our contract with a rogue federal government and breaking away to establish a new United States of America under the original Constitution. That is the abyss I am urging our side to create for the corrupt states.

        It’s the states who created the federal government in the first place. “The people” don’t live in DC. They live in the states. The Constitution is a contract. The feds and several member states have, by refusing to abide by the Constitution, rendered the agreement null and void. In the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, we need to move on and create a United States with the states who still believe in it. We’re we to do that, the ensuing mass migration into the new US would shock the system into reality. Good-bye to the Davos Fourth Reich and Fuhrer Klaus Schwab and his minions.

      M Poppins in reply to Pasadena Phil. | July 4, 2022 at 12:01 pm

      it’s too late. We’re already a tyranny of castrating mommies, and have been for the past 50 years.

Colonel Travis | July 3, 2022 at 1:08 am

Wow. I listened to his arguments. He did a very good job.

Big picture, I don’t know how this will ultimately end. We are truly a house divided once again.

as it essentially doubles down on a strategy that has already failed

Failed how? Megan is not paying attention, as threats against professional licenses are the current frontier in the left’s assault on civil liberties.

And it isn’t just civil liberties, it’s been widely reported that daring to report covid vaccine injuries or contradict the “safe and effective” mantra has professional consequences, with threats of unemployment and loss of license.

Kirkland has a strong “social commitment” to “Diversity and Inclusion.” It’s found on it’s website. But it does not include people whose views differ from theirs or whose policies they don’t agree with. They’re like the new and improved ACLU: they believe not in due process but substantive due process.

Autocorrect made it’s website; should be its.

David Lat noted the new found power of the transactions part of the firm
– now transactions bring in 3x the revenues of the litigation attorneys
– so the firm is focusing on that part going forward

the speed in which it was announced
– indicated that this had been in the works for some time
– and they waited until the court ruling was announced

In a way, this is another version of stakeholder vs shareholder capitalism where board members have to choose between fulfilling their fiduciary duty to shareholders or kneeling to political mandates. Same with doctors who are threatened with losing their licenses if they choose to follow the science rather than the politics.

Civilization is collapsing all around us.


Which of Kirkland & Ellis’ woke client(s) pressured the firm?

    SuddenlyHappyToBeHere in reply to Q. | July 4, 2022 at 9:53 am

    Very likely none. Other than some of their pro bono clients from the Prog side. Most likely it was internally driven. Associates and partners under age 40. The Most High Woke

The left used to decry how awful McCarthy was back in the day, when in truth they actually admired and envied him. It’s come more than full circle.

Legal Insurrection — Please post the names of the companies who clients of Kirkland and Ellis. I would like let them know my displeasure and let them know that my dollars will be going elsewhere.

Thank you,

Rich Boll

“In a column in the Wall Street Journal, the lawyers recount how they were shown the door after objections from lawyers in the firm and clients.”

So, did those protesting lawyers and clients have the courage of their convictions and leave that Firm? I thought not. Sunshine patriots looking at their bank accounts as supreme over everything including self respect and morality

    henrybowman in reply to diver64. | July 5, 2022 at 1:36 am

    I’m thinking those “objections” were to the two lawyers and what they did, not to the company showing them the door.

Steven Brizel | July 4, 2022 at 9:14 am

Clement and Murphy are great layers Americans and patriots

These law firms and all those crying about Dobbs too need to realize one thing.

Unless the kill all or most of the current Supreme Court justices, all the backlash, protests, “Canceling” (Loss of jobs, careers.) or even burning at the stake these decisions are now written and will go into effect.

So if you can’t stand Bruen or Dobbs’ results, move to Canada. Or overthrow the US government. Those decisions aren’t going away.

I know they ignored “Heller” for 10+ years but this day was inevitably coming.

They had to have a SCOTUS of a totally different (To overturn Heller.) composition or it was going to be expanded.

NY State’s law efforts so far show they are going to ignore it basically. Good.

When SCOTUS scraps it, it will further expand people’s rights, and LIMIT government power instead. They’ll bring it on themselves. They deserve the legal spanking they’ll get.

My principle reason for reading this blog is to catalog the indelible fact that it is the Communists masquerading as so-called Left who are wholly dedicated to removing the last vestiges of the rule of law in the USA. The time will come soon when they will beg for its return and plead with Clement to defend them, but it will be far too late. Solus bonus communistarum mortuus est.

It’s unfortunate that some law firms worship the almighty dollar over the US Constitution. Thankfully, there are lawyers like Clement and Murphy who believe in helping clients fight for their Rights despite the negative blowback.

In 2001 Kirkland & Ellis represented my employer in several matters so I was invited to watch GW Bush’s Inauguration parade at K&E’s DC office. The event was memorable because Ken Starr and the team of lawyers made famous for their involvement in the Florida “hanging chad” recount were in attendance and celebrated. I’m sue K&E continues to represent many fossil-fuel-using heavy industry clients in matters before the federal government, similar to my then-employer. Want to take bets that those woke partners who reject 2A cases will now ostracize clients with problematic E (as in ESG) profiles? My bet is that they’re not so woke as to risk going broke,