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Best Friends In D.C.: Legal Minds

Lawyers and judges who make the bar friendly.
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Douglas Ginsburg

Chief judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Ginsburg's court, which is based in Washington, is considered the most powerful outside the Supreme Court. The judge, who has served on the D.C. circuit since 1986, rules with a strong libertarian streak that has won him countless friends among businesses seeking regulatory relief. In 1999, for instance, he ruled that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had illegally enacted a workplace safety program without first gathering input from the business community. He has also ruled in favor of loosening Clean Air Act rules requiring permits and new pollution controls whenever manufacturing and power plants were updated. Trivia buffs will remember him as the man President Reagan nominated to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court in 1987. Ginsburg later withdrew his name from consideration.

William "Chip" Mellor III

Co-founder, Institute for Justice

The Institute for Justice specializes in civil liberties, property rights, and regulatory issues. A libertarian, nonprofit law firm, it has consistently and successfully represented small-business owners and entrepreneurs--by, for example, taking on licensing laws that hinder businesses from competing in established markets. The firm doesn't charge for its work, which means it's priced just right for folks like Las Vegas limo drivers and Oklahoma casket makers, two examples of happy former clients.

Though Mellor worked in the Reagan White House, the firm distances itself from either political party and takes on big-business friends of the GOP as readily as it goes after affirmative-action regulations. "IJ are some of the very few who fight against these arrangements between politicians and favored business groups," says Thomas Firey, managing editor of the Cato Institute's journal Regulation. The firm lost its most prominent case to date, however: Kelo v. City of New London, in which it challenged a city's sweeping eminent domain powers before the Supreme Court.

Andrew J. Sherman

Partner, Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky

Sherman dropped out of college to start his own business, a fitness and training company for tennis players. And though he eventually returned to school and went on to earn a law degree, he's never lost his fervor for entrepreneurship. Today, through his legal practice at the D.C. firm Dickstein Shapiro (where he bills an unfriendly $575 an hour) and Grow Fast Grow Right (an entrepreneurship training firm he co-founded), Sherman guides small businesses through the maze of regulatory, patent, and licensing issues.

"Dealing with someone like Andrew is invaluable because his depth of knowledge and expertise reaches across such a huge array of people and businesses," says former colleague Howard Davis, who is now a managing director at the Shemano Group, a San Francisco investment bank that provides services for small and midsize companies.

Sherman is also a prolific author, with 14 business titles to his name, and he teaches entrepreneurship courses at the University of Maryland and Georgetown. "If you're a true supporter of entrepreneurship," Sherman says, "you support it with all your power--whether you're billing or not."

Last updated: Feb 1, 2006




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