In the next few months, we’re going to see a lot of lawyers switching jobs in Washington, D.C. Regardless of who wins the election — my current prediction is that Barack Obama will prevail (sorry, Anonymous Partner) — many lawyers will move into and out of government in the weeks before and after Inauguration Day.

For those who joined the Obama Administration early, three or four years is long enough to make them nostalgic for private sector paychecks. What use is a punched ticket if you never redeem it?

In fact, the movement has already started. Today we bring you news of two notable moves from the nation’s capital. One of them involves a lawyer leaving a top government post, and the other concerns an in-house lawyer entering the firm world….

Thomas J. Perrelli

The revolving door at the Department of Justice is in full swing. Just last week, out in the field, former Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald took his talents to Skadden.

Meanwhile, back at Main Justice, a high-ranking DOJ official is returning to private practice. From the WSJ Law Blog:

Thomas Perrelli, the third highest-ranking Department of Justice official for most of the last three years, has decided to return to the Washington, D.C., office of Jenner & Block LLP, the firm announced on Wednesday.

From March 2009 to March of this year, Mr. Perrelli served as associate attorney general. In that role, he oversaw all of the Justice Department’s civil litigation, including lawsuits pertaining to antitrust, civil rights, tax, and the environment. He negotiated the $20 billion trust fund set up by BP to compensate victims of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and brokered settlements of more than $25 billion with five large mortgage servicers.

The #2 position at DOJ — the Deputy Attorney General, or “DAG” (not be with the much more common title of “DAAG,” or Deputy Assistant Attorney General) — oversees the criminal side of things (as you can see on his handy-dandy DOJ org chart). That side of the house tends to be sexier. But in terms of portability back to private practice, serving as the associate attorney general is hard to beat, given the exposure to civil litigation.

Although lawyers leaving government service don’t always return to their former firms — Greg Craig didn’t go back to Williams & Connolly, for example, and Fred Fielding didn’t go back to Wiley Rein (formerly Wiley Rein & Fielding) — it’s not exactly shocking that Perrelli is returning to Jenner. He has deep roots there. He previously served as managing partner of the firm’s D.C. office, and aside from his two DOJ stints, he has spent his whole legal career at Jenner.

Our next move, still in D.C., comes from BuckleySandler:

BuckleySandler LLP, a leading financial services and criminal and civil enforcement defense law firm, is pleased to announce that R. David Whitaker, former Senior Company Counsel in the Strategy & Operational Risk Group at Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., has joined the firm as Counsel in its Washington, DC office. A 28-year veteran of the banking industry specializing in electronic commerce and financial services law, Whitaker will provide legal counsel to the firm’s clients on payment systems, privacy and data security, electronic financial services, electronic signatures and records and mobile commerce.

Who says you can’t go back after crossing the in-house Rubicon? If you have almost 30 years of experience in an important practice area, you should be able to find a firm home.

Congratulations to Messrs. Perrelli and Whitaker on their moves, and congratulations to their firms on their impressive new hires. If you have an interesting move you’d like to share with us, please feel free to drop us a line.

You Can Go Home Again: Perrelli Returns to Jenner [WSJ Law Blog]
Former Associate United States Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli Re-Joins Jenner & Block as a Partner [Jenner & Block (press release)]
Nationally Recognized E-Commerce Lawyer Joins BuckleySandler, Boosts Electronic Financial Services Practice [BuckleySandler (press release)]

Earlier: Musical Chairs: Patrick Fitzgerald’s New Home
Inside Straight: On Crossing The In-House Rubicon And Law Firm Stupidity


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