Though trained to be lawyers, Annapolis lobbyists Bruce Bereano and Camille Fesche have used their law school lessons not for courtroom combat but to advocate for their clients in the Maryland General Assembly and before state agencies.
Both credit the skills they learned in the classroom with helping them press their cases before legislators and commissioners, with the most important skills being those classically used to answer law school exam hypotheticals: spot the issue, cite the rule, perform the analysis and draw a conclusion.
“You learn to become very mentally organized, very strategic” in law school, said Bereano, who operates his own lobbying practice. “You realize the importance of details and factual distinctions. You learn how to stand on your feet and talk and think at the same time.”
Fesche said law school taught her not only the importance of “making an argument on behalf of a client” in a courtroom but of “being nimble, being creative and being flexible” in response to the questions and concerns she now faces from legislators and administrative bodies.
Lobbyists must be forward-thinking and recognize the “unintended consequences” of legislation and administrative actions when crafting an argument for a client, Fesche said.
“Having a law degree gives you an edge,” added Fesche, of the government relations practice at Rifkin Weiner Livingston LLC.
Bereano and Fesche started out as practicing attorneys.
Bereano, a 1969 graduate of the George Washington University Law School, spent 30 years litigating civil and criminal cases in federal and state trial and appellate courts. Those days ended in January 2000, when Maryland’s top court disbarred him following his conviction for mail fraud six years earlier.
Bereano had been found guilty of having fraudulently billed lobbying clients for entertaining legislators when he had actually used the money for campaign contributions. In disbarring Bereano, the Maryland Court of Appeals said mail fraud is conclusive of the disbarrable offense of intending to defraud.
Bereano said he misses being a lawyer but has not forgotten the lessons he learned at George Washington and during his years as an attorney, lessons he uses on behalf of his lobbying clients.
“You learn in law school that details are critical, details are distinguishing,” Bereano said.
“You learn to research all the facts and to digest them and to properly analyze them and to understand the relevancy of the particular situation,” he added. “If you don’t get what the problem is, you’re not in the ballgame. You’re really not.”
Fesche practiced corporate and bankruptcy law for about six years with several firms in New York and Annapolis following her 2007 graduation from Georgetown University Law Center. Fesche said she has found greater satisfaction in lobbying.
“I practiced as an unhappy corporate attorney when there was no such thing as a bad loan,” Fesche said. “I practiced as an unhappy bankruptcy attorney after the markets fell.”
Being a lobbyist uses “a lot of the same skills that I learned in law,” Fesche said. “The skills that transferred from the traditional practice of law to government relations are issue analysis, being able to navigate the Maryland Code, client management and framing arguments and then being able to persuasively deliver them.”