Three members of a small, young, downtown law firm played key rolls in Republican election wins this month, boosting the firm’s profile as it tackles aggressive growth plans that include beefing up its lobbying business. John Lewis and Wilkins LLP set up shop on Monument Circle in 2005 and since then has grown from the three attorneys to 11, including partner Thomas John and associates John Cochran and Maura Hoff—all of whom had plenty to celebrate on election night.
As chairman of the Marion County Republican Party, John directed the strategy that helped the GOP regain a 16-13 majority on the City-County Council. Cochran ran Indianapolis mayor-elect Greg Ballard’s campaign and is now leading his transition team’s executive committee; John also is a member of the executive committee. And Hoff was a local coordinator with Lawrence mayor-elect Paul Ricketts’ campaign.
“Because of the results, it looks like we’re the type of people who have a crystal ball, but they just worked hard,” said John Lewis, the firm’s managing partner.
The gregarious 40-year-old South Bend native started the firm in January 2005 to try to get back to a time “before hourly billing killed the relationship” between attorneys and clients.
The originally constituted law firm, Lewis & Wilkins, was essentially born as a result of a sweetheart, million-dollar contract the law firm landed with the Attorney General's office when two employees of Attorney General Steve Carter left his employ to work for the state agency as independent contractors. The contractual arrangement was highly criticized at the time because the former Carter employees were both working for the AG's staff during the bidding process and, critics claimed, possessed inside information which advantaged them over competing law firms. Carter claimed the contract would result in a net savings for taxpayers, but others weren't convinced the same work could not have been performed by attorneys working for the state much cheaper.
As a candidate, Ballard criticized lucrative contracts the Peterson administration awarded to favored law firms as part of the wasteful spending he intended to cut out if he was elected. Ironically, his own campaign manager is now in a position of trying to parlay Ballard's win into a major windfall for the Republican county chairman's law firm at which he works. Will it be business as usual in the new administration? Or will Ballard put a stop to political payola for campaign cronies?