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Draft Report: Rod Rosenstein, Law Firm Recruit?

Rod Rosenstein testifies in March 2017 during his confirmation hearing to be deputy attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice. Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / NLJ

Washington Wrap is a weekly look at the biggest legal industry news and Big Law moves shaping the legal business in Washington, D.C. Send news tips and lateral moves to Ryan Lovelace at rlovelace@alm.com.

While the timing of U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's exit from the Justice Department remains unclear, one thing is certain: he'll have plenty of job prospects when he leaves.

Rosenstein hasn't worked in private practice for more than 30 years. In 1987 he was a summer associate at President Richard Nixon's now-defunct former law firm, Mudge Rose Guthrie Alexander & Ferdon, and he spent the following summer at Philadelphia's Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis. He hasn't given any indication that he plans to give Big Law another go, but history suggests he wouldn't have trouble finding a home at any number of firms—not to mention companies or universities.

With Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on U.S. Attorney General nominee William Barr planned for next week, Rosenstein is now expected to exit his post whenever Barr takes up his, assuming he is confirmed.

The cascading political dramas of the Trump administration have given Rosenstein a unique resume. But as a high-profile, high-level DOJ vet with lots of experience and connections but no book of business, he's got plenty in common with past law firm hires.

Jeffrey Lowe, Major, Lindsey & Africa's managing partner in D.C., said Rosenstein could also be a good match for an in-house role, noting that not having pressure to find clients and bill hours could prove attractive to a career public servant. Rachel Brand, the former third-in-command at Main Justice, left the department last February to become head of corporate governance at Walmart.

“We typically see people pursuing multiple paths when they’re looking to leave,” Lowe said. He added that Rosenstein could be a good fit to enter academia.

A former Senate-confirmed Justice Department official said Rosenstein is sure to have a lot of “nontraditional” options available to him, including taking time to record his experiences. Another former deputy attorney general, Jim Comey, wrote a book following his firing from the FBI in 2017, for example.

“I suspect he has not been looking for a job,” the former senior Justice official said. “It’s incredibly hard with recusals to look.” Justice Department employees are blocked for two years from representing anyone on matters for which they've had responsibility.

The ex-official said Rosenstein could follow in the footsteps of another former DAG, Sally Yates, who turned to Georgetown Law before joining King & Spalding, or Preet Bharara, who joined the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law after similarly being fired by Trump.

Anyone who adds Rosenstein stands to benefit, but his exit could cost the rest of the country, according to Arun Rao, Investigative Group International president who previously worked for Rosenstein at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.

“Whatever the future holds, I have no doubt that he will continue to bring the same good judgment he repeatedly demonstrated over nearly three decades with the Department of Justice to his next position,” Rao said. “He will be missed.”

Regardless of where Rosenstein winds up, he may also end up creating work for other lawyers. House Democrats’ new ruling majority looks to be planning widespread investigations and it's not hard to picture Rosenstein’s past oversight of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation piquing Democrats’ interest.

Law Firm Moves, News, & Notes

Holland & Knight grew its public policy and regulation group with the addition of two new partners this week: Tom Davis III, formerly director of federal government affairs at Deloitte, and Kara Ward, formerly of Venable.

Davis, who served in Congress from 1995 to 2008, said he was ready for the "next chapter of my life" and was drawn to the firm by its strong reputation in the region and his comfort level working with it. Ward’s practice focuses on the financial services and the housing finance market.



Venable’s legislative and government affairs practice added Steve Vest as senior policy adviser and Anne Kierig as counsel.

Vest was most recently senior vice president of global public policy at Time Warner Inc., and previously vice president of government relations for News Corp., and vice president of government relations for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA).

Kierig comes from DLA Piper’s privacy and data security group, and was previously a counsel to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois.



Jim Baker, former FBI general counsel, joined the R Street Institute. Baker served as the FBI’s GC from January 2014 to January 2018 and as strategic adviser until May 2018.

Baker will serve as the R Street Institute’s director of national security and cybersecurity and comes from the Lawfare Institute and the Brookings Institution.



Ballard Spahr poached three lawyers—and five total staff—from Nossaman’s office in Washington, D.C.

The quintet joins Ballard Spahr’s lobbying and government relations practice, and four of them are registered lobbyists.



Fisher & Phillips grew its Washington, D.C., footprint with its acquisition of The Farrington Law Firm.

Six lawyers are matriculating to Fisher & Phillips as part of the move, including three partners: Dan Farrington, Margaret Jacobsen Scheele and Sarah Biran.



Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld announced it recruited Claudius Modesti as a partner in the firm’s white-collar defense and government investigations practice.

He was previously the director of enforcement at the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.



Norton Rose Fulbright added Amanda Wait, who formerly led Hunton Andrew Kurth’s competition and consumer protection practice.

Wait joins Norton Rose’s D.C. office and its global antitrust and competition team.



Wiley Rein announced this week that its national security practice would be led by Daniel Pickard, an international trade partner, and Tracye Winfrey Howard, a government contracts partner.

In 2018, Wiley’s national security team grew through the additions of Richard Sofield, who formerly oversaw the U.S. Department of Justice’s participation in the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, and Peter Hyun, former chief counsel to California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.



Speaking of promotions, several more firms announced partner promotions this week, including:

Crowell & Moring said it elected eight lawyers to the firm’s partnership, including four in D.C. The quartet handles health care; government contracts; consumer litigation; mergers and acquisitions; and international trade matters.

Foley & Lardner said it elected 13 partners, including two in D.C. The duo works in the firm’s litigation and intellectual property practices.

Miles & Stockbridge said this week it elected 10 new principals across its offices in Baltimore, D.C., and the Washington suburbs of Tysons Corner, Virginia, and Frederick, Maryland. The principals are spread across the firm’s practices, including commercial and business litigation; corporate, securities and tax; intellectual property and technology; labor, employment, benefits and immigration; and real estate and transactional finance.

Morrison & Foerster said it elected 12 lawyers to the firm’s partnership, including two in D.C. The duo work in MoFo’s corporate department and its national security and global risk + crisis management groups.

Steptoe & Johnson LLP elected five new partners and elevated six other partners to equity status. Four of the new partners are based in D.C., and work across the firm’s practices, including blockchain and cryptocurrency; commercial litigation; government affairs and public policy, among others.



Clark Hill added Brian Della Rocca as senior counsel in its tax and estate planning group in Washington, D.C. He joins from his solo practice and previously was a principal at KDR Law Group.

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