The AGs to the AG’s, broadly defined

February 7, 2019

George Jepsen, the former attorney general, and Perry Zinn Rowthorn, who was Jepsen’s top deputy, started work on Wednesday as partners in the novel “attorney general” practice at Shipman & Goodwin LLP in Hartford.

They’ve been taking some heat — including from my once-again colleague, Colin McEnroe — about hanging out a shingle to represent corporate clients against AG’s. They did, after all, devote much of their careers to the white-hat side, going after bad guys.

I spoke with both and as always, the answer is more complex. They’re not just representing clients up against the slings and arrows of law enforcers. They’re also hoping to work with attorneys general in other states on strategy and multi-state negotiations. They did a lot of that over the last eight years.

And, they’re available as outsourced lawyers to do the very work that AG offices do.

Finally, they’re now in the business, they hope, of monitoring big, multi-state settlements as the “neutral” referee. Bet you didn’t know that existed. I certainly didn’t.

Jepsen took a more collaborative approach with businesses than his predecessor, now-Sen. Richard Blumenthal, though both filed no shortage of lawsuits over the years.

“It’s a little simplistic to say that we’re just switching teams,” Rowthorn said. When they were involved in a case, he added, “If there were cool heads who were credible, reasonable, creative, who could help us solve problems…we always appreciated those people.”

“And so we kind of want to be those guys, the practical problem-solvers.”

Under ethics rules, they can’t appear before the Connecticut AG’s office for a year. They’re defining that broadly, so they’ll probably avoid most in-state work for clients on the hook even if they’re appearing before other agencies — if the office of Attorney General’s office under William Tong is any way involved, as often is the case.

Also at the same firm, on the same floor, is former state Supreme Court Justice Joette Katz, now a litigator, who just finished a long stint as commissioner of the Department of Children and Families. Katz is not in the fledgling AG practice.

One practical concern: Who’s the boss between the two West Hartford residents?

It’s Jepsen’s second tour of duty at Shipman & Goodwin, and he had the big title and the mandate from voters in their last gig. But they’re strictly partners now.

“If there were a hierarchy,” Rowthorn demurred, “he would be the practice head.”

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