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Practice Area Spotlight: Government Relations

Recently, we sat down with Attorney Boyd Rutherford to learn more about his government relations and lobbying practice, and what it’s been like to return to practicing law after serving as Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. Get to know Boyd, and learn more about our Government Relations Practice, in the Q&A below.


Q: What does Government Relations mean?

A: In government relations, we provide strategic counsel to clients and develop opportunities to advance their business objectives. Simply put, we advise on who are the decision makers associated with an issue or need, what is the process, and how to get through bureaucratic and legislative complexities.


For example, if a business wants to purchase property from the State, first the custodial agency must determine whether it is excess to their needs, followed by a clearinghouse process before a property can be surplused and put out for bid, but only after approval by the Board of Public Works (BPW), which includes the Governor, Comptroller, and Treasurer. After the bidding process, the property sale must be approved by the BPW a second time. If that sounds confusing to you, you’re not alone – this is where having representation can be helpful to your business by helping you cut through the red tape and minimizing the time it may take to identify who the correct contacts are and get on their calendars, get through the processes and requirements, and achieve a successful outcome.


Q: What about lobbying? And what does a lobbyist actually do?

A: A registered lobbyist schedules meetings with elected officials, from local government to the executive branch, on behalf of a paying client. The intent of lobbying is to influence current or potential legislation.


As in many industries, lobbying really boils down to leveraging relationships. What do Government Relations Attorneys and Lobbyists do? It’s pretty simple; in many cases, your business objectives can be advanced through making connections with the right people, and through strategic counsel from advisors with government and public policy experience. For me, this can be as simple as picking up the phone and reaching out to someone in my network. I’ll open my rolodex (yes, I still have a rolodex!) and make a call with the objective of strengthening a client’s business-government connection, managing political and regulatory risk, or securing funding.


What else does a lobbyist do? We help clients with advocacy and building relationships with key government leaders and staff, monitoring and advocating for or against legislation that affects our clients’ interests, advising clients on the status of pending and anticipated measures, drafting legislation, and representing clients before state and/or federal government on legislative, policy and regulatory matters.


For example, a real estate client had previously received approvals from local government for new construction, when the County approved legislation putting a new building moratorium in place. The new legislation would have significantly affected financing and slowed down the project; however, I was able to secure a local county council exemption that amended the legislation to grandfather in our client, allowing them to continue with their project.


Q: What has it been like for you to return to the private sector – and to the legal profession – after many years of public service? What do you enjoy most about your current role? 

A: There are certainly differences between the time I spent in office and my work at Davis, Agnor, Rapaport & Skalny; there are also many synergies. I have fewer opportunities for bear cub cuddling (ask me about the time I worked with the Department of Natural Resources to survey black bear dens in western Maryland) or leading the response to a State crisis (the Opioid epidemic, for example). However, in some ways, it’s been like coming home – I’m working in downtown Columbia, where my wife and I built a home and raised our children, and collaborating with colleagues I practiced with many years ago.

I appreciate the collaborative culture at our firm. Having the opportunity to draw on my colleagues’ expertise is invaluable – I can walk down the hall to consult with leaders in tax law, mergers & acquisitions, succession planning, commercial real estate, labor & employment, and more.


Q: Is lobbying only for businesses and individuals who need access to the highest levels of government, such as Congress and the executive branch? Do lobbyists only represent clients with deep pockets?

A: Lobbying can be done on behalf of a business, nonprofit organization, or individual of any size, on a local, state, or federal level. For example, we were recently approached by a community services nonprofit in Maryland that currently provides transportation and adult care services. They require state funding to expand their business and build senior housing. Our role would be to help them achieve their goal by advocating for the funds they need.


Q: How does your time in office as Lieutenant Governor of Maryland uniquely position you to advise clients? What lessons can you take from your time in office and apply to your Government Relations practice?

A: Serving as Lt. Governor, and as Secretary of General Services before that, has allowed me to build the relationships that are necessary to make things happen. Sometimes, the success of a project lies in knowing the correct agency or department responsible for a contract, approval, or process – and that knowledge is difficult to come by without years of public service experience. There are certainly lessons learned from the time I spent in Annapolis that can be applied to business – whether it was lessons in leadership, communicating effectively across the aisle, or the value of a long-standing and TBD partnership. Visit our YouTube channel for highlights from a recent event our Firm hosted where we discussed many of these topics.


Q: How can business owners successfully comply with and influence local and federal laws?

A: Well, you can always represent and advocate for yourself, but that takes away time from your business. You can also hire someone to represent your interests. At the end of the day, half the battle in many situations is getting to the right people. That’s where it helps to have a Government Relations Attorney in your corner.


Q: What inspires you?

A: President Ronald Reagan once said, “the best social program is a job.” I’m driven by advocating for small businesses, and by a desire help businesses and entrepreneurs who are tax creators not be suppressed. We need jobs and investment, and we need a thriving economy to provide the funding needed to allow our communities to flourish.


Contact Us

To learn more about our Government Relations Practice Area, visit the practice webpage here. For questions or more information about how our attorneys can advise you or your business, contact us here.