Littler, Seyfarth Battle for Powerhouse Labor Lobbyist

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By Ben Penn and Chris Opfer

Two heavyweight management-side workplace law firms are vying for the services of Randy Johnson, one of Washington’s most well-connected labor lobbyists, sources with knowledge of the process tell Bloomberg Law.

Johnson, a new free agent after departing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at the end of last year, is said to be torn between joining Seyfarth Shaw and Littler Mendelson. Both firms represent corporations in labor and employment matters.

Littler is the nation’s largest workplace law firm, with more than 1,000 attorneys and an established government affairs presence through its Workplace Policy Institute. Seyfarth is a smaller but prominent outfit, which would give Johnson the chance to build his own lobbying shop from the ground floor. Ogletree Deakins is the only other known labor and employment law firm in the country with an office devoted to lobbying.

Last month, Johnson ended his 20-year run as the Chamber’s senior vice president for labor, immigration, and employee benefits. The move followed an exodus of other recent senior policy officials at the nation’s biggest business lobbying association. Bruce Josten, the Chamber’s top lobbyist, left the group in 2016 after 42 years on the job. William Kovacs, who led the Chamber’s environment policy lobbying arm, jumped ship late last year.

Johnson didn’t respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment. Seyfarth and Littler spokespersons also didn’t respond to comment requests.

Landing Johnson would be a major coup for either firm. He’s viewed as one of the Beltway’s premiere business advocates on workforce issues, with numerous relationships throughout Capitol Hill and in the executive branch and deep institutional knowledge.

Johnson’s nearly 40-year career in labor policy included stops at the Ronald Reagan administration’s Labor Department and a decade on the Hill as the Republican labor counsel on the House workforce committee.

Seyfarth’s Splash

It’s unclear in which direction Johnson is leaning between the two firms or whether other Chamber labor policy staffers would follow their former boss to his next destination. One source said at least a few of Johnson’s former colleagues at the Chamber have been courted by Littler and Seyfarth as well.

Johnson “was a valued member of the Chamber team,” spokeswoman Blair Latoff Holmes told Bloomberg Law. She also directed Bloomberg Law to a previous statement by Chamber President Tom Donohue. “We wish him nothing but the best and look forward to continuing to work with him,” Donohue said in the statement.

Preferring the reliable income stream from billable hours, management-side firms have largely resisted modeling a lobbying unit after the blueprint of Littler’s Workplace Policy Institute or Ogletree Deakin’s regulatory and legislative affairs consulting subsidiary.

Seyfarth Shaw would be making a significant splash in the field were it to hire Johnson, who is close friends with Seyfarth’s senior counsel Lawrence Lorber, a former DOL official.

Littler’s WPI, which has grown in influence in Washington in recent years, is directed by Michael Lotito and Ilyse Schuman. Lotito declined to comment on Johnson.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at bpenn@bloomberglaw.com; Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Terence Hyland at thyland@bloomberglaw.com

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