"I'm not worried about profitability or the health of the firm," said Paul Kiernan, executive partner for Holland & Knight's 135-lawyer office in Washington. "I think it's really a question of what will happen to the economy. If this continues to drag on then we will look at all those things. Right now we're not looking at any adjustments or focus on our numbers for the rest of the year."
While the shutdown has not yet hurt the firm, Kiernan said, it could prove harmful to businesses and clients. "For most of our clients, it has been a real concern,” he said. “With virtually every client, they are taking a second look at business decisions." For Holland & Knight's lobbying clients, that means missed meetings and cancelled appointments on Capitol Hill, he said.
Andrew Tulumello, co-partner-in-charge of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's Washington office, said he expects the government shutdown will have little impact on the firm's business. He noted that the harm on the judiciary—which has one more week of reserve funds available—could cause some slowdown in the courts.
"We've had a few reports, for example, about some courts potentially needing to prioritize the criminal dockets over the civil dockets," Tulumello said in an email to Legal Times. "These have been preliminary reports and unless we have a prolonged shutdown, we expect things to continue on the track that we are on."
McKenna, Long & Aldridge’s Washington office managing partner, Joanne Zimolzak, said the main focus during the shutdown has been trying to help clients navigate through the thicket of agency closures. Lawyers at the firm, she said, are busy advising regulatory clients—including in the environmental and food and drug arenas—on issues now in limbo from the shutdown.
“We are working with clients to address immediate concerns and as this evolves there may be changing strategies,” Zimolzak said. “This is something we are continuing to watch.” She said clients are wondering “what recourse do they have for different scenarios.”
Joseph Fanone, managing partner of Ballard Spahr's Washington office, said he was less concerned about a government shutdown than with the other major financial issue pending in Congress: raising the debt ceiling. The federal government would lose its ability to borrow if Congress does not increase the country’s $16.7 trillion debt ceiling over the next several weeks.
"You already saw some reaction in the stock market," Fanone said. "It will affect not only the U.S. economy but also the global market."
Jonathan Aronie, co-managing partner of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton's Washington office, provided shutdown tips to clients in the government contracts practice. The advice included keeping up with deadlines, documenting expenses and creating an alternative work plan for employees.
"With any luck, the government will right its ship and these contingency navigation plans will become unnecessary quickly," Aronie wrote. "Then we can all sit back with a good drink and relax while listening to our elected representatives blame one another for this total abdication of leadership."