Paul A. Cunningham

Harkins Cunningham LLP – Washington, DC

Paul A. Cunningham

Paul A. Cunningham

(202) 973-7601

Suite 400
1700 K Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20006-3804

Paul Cunningham is a founding partner of Harkins Cunningham LLP.  He assists public and private entities in achieving success through effective legal, legislative, administrative and public affairs strategies in highly regulated and politicized environments.  Over more than 40 years, Paul has been involved in matters requiring resolution of issues arising from most, if not all, of the major challenges facing for profit and not for profit freight and passenger railroads.  He has extensive experience in other network and infrastructure industries, including water and electricity.  His understanding of the core challenges facing these industries is among the most extensive in the legal industry.

Paul serves as a go-to lawyer when the stakes are high and the issues are complex, there are multiple parties and jurisdictions involved, and the right strategy is not always clear. 

Depending upon the problem, Paul understands how to secure favorable decisions and progress on these fronts:

  • Administrative law and rulemakings
  • Alternative dispute resolution
  • Appellate litigation
  • Bankruptcy and reorganization
  • Commercial agreements
  • Economic, including competition and regulation
  • Environmental review and enforcement actions
  • Policy and public communications

Given his background and experience, Paul is distinctly qualified to assist clients in the growth area of infrastructure and public-private partnerships.   Major new technologies and methodologies are emerging and converging in transportation, distribution/logistics, water, energy, and communications.   His experience, seasoned judgement and unique strategic view is especially suited to entities pursuing innovative solutions to infrastructure challenges.

Paul’s clients have included Class I and smaller railroads, electric utilities, the Association of American Railroads, the Edison Electric Institute, public transit and water providers, municipal and state governments, and private entities and investors in railroad and other highly regulated sectors.   His career and perspective were shaped by his early and pivotal experience as Counsel to the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee. He was assigned to staff Committee initiatives and played a substantial role in the reorganization of several bankrupt railroads into Conrail.  He later helped design and secure changes to the governing regulatory regime to facilitate Conrail’s commercial revival as a federally owned enterprise, privatization, and success as a highly profitable and investor-rewarding enterprise. 


Representative matters

Infrastructure Projects

Negotiator for a major California water utility’s successful reallocation of California’s Colorado River water rights and resolution of inter-agency disputes over the control and pricing of water transportation facilities.

Advisor to public agency seeking to develop a multi-billion dollar intercity transit and freight project.

Advisor to and negotiator among parties seeking to develop a major fossil-fuel power plant and related transportation facilities.

Rail and Transportation

For over almost 40 years, trusted advisor to three Class I client railroads, the Association of American Railroads, smaller railroads, and public transit agencies, their Boards of Directors, senior inside counsel and other officers, outside counsel and financial advisors. The challenges addressed include infrastructure and business development, financing, operations, bankruptcy and restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, joint use arrangements, litigation and dispute resolution, and regulation and deregulation.


Counsel to electric utility seeking to restructure obligations and regulatory treatment of those obligations arising from participation in nuclear reactor development.

FERC counsel in connection with electric utility’s sales of fossil fuel facilities in transition to principally nuclear generation.

Corporate Reorganizations, Mergers and Acquisitions

Lead counsel for buyers or sellers regarding regulatory approval, including NEPA review, of four major railroad transactions and several smaller transactions.

Appellate Litigation

Lead counsel in more than 30 appellate actions arising principally from Federal agency actions. 



Chambers USA Guide

  • Transportation-Rail section since 2007

Washington DC’s Best Lawyers

  • Lawyer of the Year for Transportation Law, 2016
  • Lawyer of the Year in Railroad Law 2012

Best Lawyers in America

  • Since 2007, most recently in the areas of Administrative/Regulatory Law and Railroad Law



Founding Partner, Harkins Cunningham LLP, Washington DC, 1992-present

  • Attorney-at-law
  • Finance Partner
  • Managing Director, HC Project Advisors, LLC

Partner, Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz, Washington DC, 1981-1992

  • Managing Partner, D.C. Office
  • Member, Executive Committee
  • Chairman, Economic Regulation Practice Group
  • Chairman, Finance Committee

Associate, Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz, Washington DC, 1978 - 1981

Special Counsel, Consolidated Rail Corporation, 1976-1978

Staff Counsel, United Sates Senate Commerce Committee, 1972-1976



  • University of Washington, 1972, J.D. (Editor, University of Washington Law Review)
  • Whitman College, 1969, B.A.

Bar and Court Admissions

  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second, Third, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and D.C. Circuits
  • U.S. District Court, D.C. Circuit
  • District of Columbia
  • State of Washington

Harkins Cunningham LLP and its lawyers have been recognized once again by U.S. News — Best LawyersHarkins Cunningham is ranked in Chambers USA – Leading Individual