D.C. Law Firms Recruiting Government Officials as Election Nears
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The law firms in Washington, D.C. are competing with each other to recruit talent from the White House, federal agencies and congressional staffs. The level of hiring increases every four years as the elections approaches and it does not matter which party is in the White House. The hiring cycle begins in the spring of each election year. This is when senior advisors to campaigns are asked to commit until after the election or leave by the summer months.

“The period before the presidential election is a time when many law firms, trade associations and companies assess the talent pool, their hiring needs and budgets, and reach out to government officials they are potentially interested in,” Michael Toner said. Toner works as a partner with Wiley Rein. He is also the former chairman for the Federal Election Commission, according to The Washington Post. “But it’s November and December when the really intensive negotiations occur. A lot of this gets wrapped up by the winter or early spring after the presidential election. The next six months is prime time for this process.”


It seems as though the people who will be recruited the most will be Mary Schapiro, Eric Holder and Julius Genachowski. Schapiro is the Securities and Exchange Commission chairman. Holder is the Attorney General and used to work for Covington & Burling. Genachowski is the Federal Communications Commission chairman.

At the law firm of Jenner & Block, Mary Ellen Callahan has been brought on board to work in the brand new privacy and data protection group. Callahan formerly worked as the chief privacy officer for the Department of Homeland Security.

“You either look for people who fit your existing focus and practices, or you might decide you’re making strategic investments in what you don’t currently do,” said Bob Novick, co-managing partner of WilmerHale. “Every firm is always thinking about those dimensions of their business.”

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Stephen Luparello joined WilmerHale as a partner just last week, leaving his post as vice chairman of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). What makes these moves so risky is that former government officials do not have a book of clients to bring with them to their new firms.

“That is absolutely a concern,” Tony Pierce said. Pierce is a partner at the D.C. office for Akin Gump. “That is why any lateral who joins our firm, whether they come from the government or elsewhere, gets some runway to ramp-up their practice. We team them with a partner or group of partners who either have a client in their field or industry, or have legal expertise pertinent to it . . . and then give them as much marketing and internal support as we can.”


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