A. Scott Bolden, the managing partner of Reed Smith's Washington office, knows how to make a fashion statement. Whether it's through the buffalo-nickel cufflinks that fasten his monogrammed shirt, or the cream-colored Italian leather couch in his office, Bolden clearly has his own sense of style.
An outspoken litigator, Bolden has been with the firm since 1991 and has served as D.C. managing partner since 2008. During his career, he has represented personalities like Washington Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and Che Brown, the brother of former D.C. City Council chairman Kwame Brown. Oftentimes, Bolden becomes as much a part of the story as his high-profile clients.
A Howard University School of Law graduate and second-generation lawyer, Bolden is also deeply involved in local politics. He served as chair of the D.C. Democratic State Committee from 2002 to 2004 and ran an unsuccessful bid for City Council in 2006.
Legal Times sat down with Bolden in his K Street office to discuss law firm business, how he handles the press in high-profile matters and the investigation into D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray.
Legal Times: You wear many hats. How do you juggle your responsibilities?
Bolden: Very carefully. As I indicated, it's not a balance, it's a juggle. Some days it's all administrative and marketing for the firm. Other days it's all litigation or managing clients that I cross sell to the firm. It keeps it very exciting and pretty fast paced. I've been practicing law for a total of 26 years, 22 at Reed Smith. I wouldn't have it any other way. Some of the other things I've done like heading up the D.C. Chamber of Commerce or the D.C. Democratic Party or running for office or fundraising for federal or local candidates have all been stuff I've done to supplement my law practice. I find it extremely enjoyable.
What's in store for the future of Reed Smith's D.C. office?
Our lease is up at the end of 2015. Our strategic plan, that we are working on diligently, calls for our D.C. office to get bigger by 25 or 50 or more lawyers. We obviously would like to do that because we think this market is super important. It's the fourth-largest business market in the country. We currently have 80 to 90 lawyers practicing out of this office. We think we can do more. We think we can do better and get bigger to service more of our top clients. More importantly, we think we can do more in attracting clients that are based in this region. We have a handful of lawyers who have a local and regional practice. We have a northern Virginia office, our Falls Church office, which has very deep roots in the business community in this region that we work closely with. We need to accentuate those relationships and work more with that office and surrounding offices.
Adding 25 to 50 attorneys is no small feat. What kind of a timeline are we talking about?
We'll have to see what the market will bear. It's all part of a broader, strategic plan. Not only this office, but each of our offices are looking strategically at how we can maximize our efficiency and effectiveness in our respective markets. Growth has always been on our agenda, and we are just going to put more energy into it because we think the market will support our growth. The areas that we do really good work in will drive that growth, whether it's in the lateral market or with clients. Those growth areas are healthcare, energy, financial services, global regulatory enforcement and insurance recovery. We have other practices here, but those are the five growth areas because they interconnect with one another. As a regulatory office based in the nation's capital, internally we import and export more work, or as much work, as some of our larger offices. Cross selling is in the Reed Smith DNA. It's how we grew and it's also how we are going to succeed.
With respect to the expiring lease agreement, do you expect to stay in the same place or look elsewhere?
The best thing I could say at this point is that all options are on the table and we are reviewing all of them. We are looking to make decisions in the next year or so.
You have represented a lot of high-profile clients. How do you handle the media attention and balance that with being a professional in the courtroom?
When I go to court with my client, I always have to be well prepared for the courtroom. What is added pressure is when you leave that courtroom with your client and you have to manage the media. One rule is that my clients never speak to the media while they are either under investigation or involved in some civil or regulatory matter. Despite what others may think, I am very careful with the media and strategic to the best of my ability. There is not a whole lot to say if there is no advantage to be gained by talking to the media. If there is something to be gained or something to be explained, then there is something to be said to the media. I return all phone calls. I'm always honest with reporters, which I think goes a long way, and I'm always straightforward with them. And I think that helps.
When I do have a conversation, whether it's an impromptu press conference or it’s a one-on-one, I try to be thoughtful. I try to be careful because of the bar rules. I'm always mindful of that. I'm always careful that I don't want to unduly influence the judge or the jury. I purposely did not include the government in my statement to you, because there are times when I really do want to influence the government when I'm managing the media, or I want to send a message to the government. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Whoever I'm representing, whether they are a public figure or not, you've got to have a media strategy because the media can influence all aspects of your case and how the public views your client. It adds a dimension to your representation. Every client reads media reports. They may say that they don’t, they may not want to, but they all read it. It's a very careful, delicate process.
Every client is different. Some clients want their lawyer talking to the media because of some strategic advantage. Other clients don't. Still others want you to clear with them what you're going to say before you issue a public statement. Everyone is different, but if you are dealing with a high-profile client, your media strategy can be as important as your legal strategy.
What do you think about the ongoing criminal investigation of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray?
I've said publicly that the U.S. attorney needs to wrap up this investigation of the mayor. We are now in our third year. While I may have witnesses and clients who are connected to that investigation, the fact of the matter is that by all accounts, the city is running well. The mayor has done a good job of managing the city despite this federal investigation. It has touched people around him, but has not touched him yet. I understand that federal investigations have to run their course and take their time and go where the evidence takes you. At the same time, there has got to be a more efficient way of investigating public figures and people connected to them. That does not require a three or four-year investigation that covers their term. It is my hope that the U.S. attorney will wrap this investigation up: good, bad or ugly.
Justice can be a conviction and justice can be a finding that that the government cannot prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The only purpose for the U.S. attorney or [district attorney] or government prosecutor, on behalf of the people of that jurisdiction, is to do justice. I think sometimes prosecutors lose sight of the fact that prosecuting and deciding not to prosecute are on equal footing.
This is part of a series of Q&A sessions Legal Times is conducting with D.C.-based law firm managing partners. Photo by The National Law Journal's Diego M. Radzinschi.