The Law Firm of Hamilton and Hamilton
Washington, DC

Hamilton and Hamilton, LLP
"A Washington D.C. Tradition Since 1876"

Hamilton and Hamilton, LLP
800 Connecticut Ave., N.W.
Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20006-2726
Tel.  (202) 463-8282
Fax  (202) 463-7282

How We Are Viewed In The Community

Excerpts from . . .

By Joel Chineson

"A refugee from a big firm, a startup solo who hung out her shingle only about a year ago, and the oldest continuing law firm in the District of Columbia — Jeffrey Berger, Agnes Cowan Powell, and the lawyers at Hamilton and Hamilton are the faces of local practice in the District and its outlying suburbs. * * *

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Such personal, result-oriented, and cost-effective service is a selling point of small firms as well. Take 10-lawyer Hamilton and Hamilton. According to its Web site,, the firm ”[b]y choice, . . has remained a small-to-medium sized firm in order to maintain close personal relationships with its clients, and some of the these relationships have endured for over a century.”

Although it’s small, Hamilton and Hamilton has a deep and rich history.

What’s the oldest home-grown firm in the District? The six partners at Hamilton and Hamilton, which was chartered in 1876, believe that their firm holds the record for having the longest continuous practice of any D.C. firm.

And it possesses some of the longest continuous clients as well. Catholic University of America, the Southern Railway Co. (now the Norfolk Southern Corp.), the Capital Traction Co. (now the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority), and the Archdiocese for Military Services U.S.A. — all were clients of the firm at the time of its incorporation and remain so today.

Does the size of a firm matter? According to partners George Masson Jr. and Patrick Kavanaugh, in addition to allowing a more personal relationship with its clients, a small firm fosters a more pleasant working environment for its lawyers.

George Masson Jr. (above) and Patrick Kavanaugh (above right) say decisions generally are made quickly and informally at Hamilton and Hamilton.

“One of the main benefits is the opportunity to have a more collegial work experience,” says Masson in an interview at his firm’s Pennsylvania Avenue offices one block from the White House.

“One of the advantages of a small firm is that decisions can be made quickly,” offers Kavanaugh.

Both Masson, 60, and Kavanaugh, 55, arrived at Hamilton and Hamilton, which has a reputation as a strong litigation firm, after tours of duty at the D.C. Corporation Counsel. Masson’s stint lasted from 1971 to 1979; Kavanaugh’s, from 1976 to 1981. Both believe that the crisis-oriented local agency provided good experience for a trial lawyer.

After so many years in a litigation pressure-cooker, life at Hamilton and Hamilton seems, if not relaxed, at least more humane.

“It’s a real nice environment,” says Masson. “We are in control of our own time, of our own lives."

"We’re pretty unstructured, informal" he adds.

Both Masson and Kavanaugh suggest that such a loosey-goosey chain of command is not for everyone. Those who have been on a managing committee at a big firm might not like the way Hamilton and Hamilton operates, but it works there, they say.

“We tend to make decisions over the coffee pot,” Kavanaugh says. “But we do have more formal gatherings to plan long-range policy."

Both lawyers suggest that this built-in flexibility has helped the firm keep up with the times.

Pointing to the increase in in-house lawyers and more captive law flims, Masson, who earned his J.D. at the University of Michigan, says, “The nature of law practice has changed in recent years."

“Our practice has changed over the last 10 years, as well. There’s less actual litigation,” he adds. “We try to be more responsive to the clients."

"There are a lot of alternatives to full litigation . . . " says Kavanaugh, who received his J.D. from George Washington University Law School. Mediation, arbitration, or just facilitating the parties in the resolution of their dispute are all options he and other firm members may suggest to clients. “We just do what responsible attorneys should be doing,” he says.

The duo also point out that, in small firms, overhead and costs are lower so they can be more competitive, cost-wise. Hamilton and Hamilton lawyers generally don’t have a fixed hourly rate, and alternative billing arrangements are offered when appropriate.

Networking is perhaps the most vital marketing tool at Hamilton and Hamilton. “Our lawyers get involved in a lot of bar activities,” says Kavanaugh.

From such visibility comes referrals, say Masson and Kavanaugh. Hamilton and Hamilton stands to benefit whenever a larger firm is conflicted, whenever a potential client can’t afford a big firm, or whenever another small firm can’t offer its client the needed expertise."

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(Reprinted with permission of the Legal Times)