March 12, 2014

Capitol Counsel has arrived.

Revenue has almost tripled since the lobby firm opened its doors in 2007, and it is snapping up top talent and big-name clients at a time when most shops are stuck in neutral.

“You have to be pretty well-rounded to play offense in this environment,” said Josh Kardon, Capitol Counsel’s newest hire. “You need to understand the politics of both caucuses, the campaigns, the press, the personalities and the law.”

The rapid growth has vaulted Capitol Counsel into the rarefied air of K Street’s elite. The firm ranked No. 9 for lobbying earnings last year after posting $14.7 million in revenue, a 21 percent increase over 2012.

Driving home its new power status, Capitol Counsel recently signed a 10-year lease for office space that spans the entire second floor of a building near the White House.

The lease was a big moment for the self-described “odd couple” of John D. Raffaelli and former Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.).

Raffaelli, the firm’s founder and mastermind, gives McCrery a large share of the credit for Capitol Counsel’s success. The firm’s revenue increased by more than $1.7 million in 2009, the year the former congressman retired from the House and came onboard.

“He’s dressed well, he’s very calm, very low-key, very intelligent. I’m sort of your typical fat, bald Italian,” Raffaelli said of McCrery with a laugh.

“His personality and style permeate the firm here. Even though I founded it and was the first person here, his style has become what the firm is all about,” Raffaelli said. “We have a lot of fun together, but we’re very different.”

The former lawmaker, a Louisiana native with blond hair and a soft voice, says he works more on organizing clients’ needs and bridging the gap between the business and interpersonal aspects of the firm.

McCrery, in turn, describes Raffaelli as wearing the proverbial “green eyeshade” and tinkering with all the business elements at the firm, such as managing expenses and plotting expansion.

Lobbyists at Capitol Counsel have been carefully selected to ensure they will fit in with the firm’s “all hands on deck” mentality.

“John D. can be ‘aw-shucks’ about it, and he probably wants to get away with it, but he, Jim and the partners have been amazingly strategic about how to grow the firm the right way,” said Kardon, who has known Raffaelli since the ’80s.

Though the firm has essentially doubled its staff in the past seven years, it hasn’t happened “just because,” said one of the original partners, Shannon Finley.