Attorney Trey Trainor Carves Out a Niche in Election Law

Change is a constant when it comes to election law. And that suits Trey Trainor, of counsel in the Austin office of Beirne, Maynard & Parsons, just fine.

Having done work in campaign finance, ballot access, election day operations, and election contest litigation, he embraces the fluid nature of this practice area. Whether it was Trainor, along with colleague Joe Nixon, representing Gov. Rick Perry in his Virginia ballot-access suit, when Perry challenged the Constitutionality of Virginia’s ballot access law during his run for the Presidency. Or his current role representing a defendant in a case that will examine the state’s new anti-SLAPP law, Trainor embraces the challenge, which makes him a good candidate for our Wednesday Interview feature.

Question: Describe your legal practice?

Answer: I deliver legal services centering on election law and campaign finance counseling. The legal framework governing public policy advocacy and political activity has become increasingly complicated for businesses, candidates, political action committees, and other organizations. Campaigns for public office are often litigious. Those who seriously engage in the political process need to obtain experienced legal counsel.
My practice is exciting because I have undertaken high profile engagements ranging from representing Governor Rick Perry’s presidential campaign in a ballot access case in Virginia, the redistricting of county commissioner districts in Galveston and Nueces counties, and — less publicized, but equally important — defending ballot eligibility decisions of county party officials, and overseeing and litigating recounts and election contests. Moreover, I have successfully represented clients in contested matters before the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and state level campaign finance regulators.

Q: What are the biggest challenges for your clients and how do you go about helping them resolve those challenges?

A: As elected officials and political organizations, the biggest challenge from a legal standpoint is maintaining compliance with the myriad of campaign finance, open government, and professional conduct regulations. As public actors, these individuals and groups are subject to all sorts of laws – everything from simple financial disclosure regulations to potential criminal sanctions for misusing campaign resources.

My first goal is sanction avoidance: tailoring guidance and steps that avoid contested matter triggers. I proactively inform my clients on the laws and agency regulations that govern involvement in public policy advocacy and political activity. This strategy requires a good deal of interacting with the entire organization that the client typically has in place – consultants, press personnel, fundraisers – but the benefit of avoiding legal snares far outweighs the potential negative, and often very public, effects a misstep.

New clients arrive after becoming a target of others in the political process and my role is that of litigator. I am blessed to be at a firm that has the relevant experience and extensive understanding of the litigation process to be successful in today’s political landscape.

Q: What are the advantages to practicing law in Austin?

A: Geographically critical to my practice, Austin is where the political activity in the state is focused and the location of where a majority of the consultants who work with candidates, officeholders, and political organizations.

Q: How does your experience in the public sector help you in private practice?

A: Having spent ten years working in both the legislative and executive branches of state government, including five regular sessions and six special sessions, I uniquely understand the nexus between law and public policy. This knowledge allows me to assist clients with activities such as bill drafting and development of talking points that distill complex legal concepts regarding legislation down to common sense, easy to understand policy statements.

Q: Who or what was your biggest influence in becoming a lawyer and why?

A: My father has always been a source of pride and inspiration for me. Upon first arriving in Austin, my father was apprehensive about me entering into the political environment, but he was supportive nonetheless. After recognizing how much I enjoyed the daily give and take of the legislative session, my father suggested that I apply to law school as a means of increasing my marketability. Dad said that, short of running for public office, an advanced degree was the key to success Austin. So far, his advice has proven spot on!

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