When former U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman decided to return to private legal practice, he wanted a job that would allow him and his wife to spend time with their seven grandchildren, who all live in New York City.
After receiving calls of interest from 16 law firms, Lieberman, a Yale Law School graduate and former Connecticut attorney general, opted to join Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman in the firm’s office on Broadway, between 50th and 51st streets. The 375-lawyer firm is ranked 124th on the recently released AmLaw 200 list, with gross revenues in 2012 of $250 million.
Lieberman’s practice, according to a news release from the firm, will focus on "independent and internal investigations and advising clients on a wide range of public policy, strategic and regulatory issues." He is also expected to play a significant role in client development.
Lieberman said last week he was still sorting out what his role as senior counsel will be. "We’ll see as it develops," Lieberman said in a telephone interview on Thursday, June 6, during what was his first work day at the office.
Lieberman, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate in 2000, served 24 years in the U.S. Senate, retiring in January of this year after his fourth term ended. He’s served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs,
leading congressional investigations into Enron’s collapse, the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, and most recently the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya.
During his conversations with the firms that showed an interest in hiring him, Lieberman said he discussed many ways his experience in Washington might prove useful to corporate clients. For instance, he said, his familiarity with federal agencies leaves him in a good position to monitor government investigations of corporations, and to oversee eventual settlements.
"That seemed to be an area of interest," he said. "They thought my experience with [Senate] investigations and if you will, my independence, or hopefully, my credibility, to tell it as it is would be a benefit to clients."
One thing Lieberman did not want to do is "any lobbying of Congress."
"Not that there’s anything wrong with it," he quickly added. "But I just choose not to do it myself. I will be available for what the law firms call strategic counseling with clients about interactions they have with the government or even problems they have internally."
There has been speculation about Lieberman’s post-Senate career since December, when during a speaking engagement Lieberman was asked, "What’s next?" Lieberman announced that he and his wife would sell their Washington, D.C., home, move back to Stamford to be closer to children and grandchildren, and that Lieberman would explore opportunities in the private sector, "perhaps with a law firm."
Law firm recruiters and other legal community observers told the Law Tribune at that time that Lieberman would no doubt be heavily recruited, valued for his expertise on everything from homeland security to cyber security and foreign policy to health care.
Attorneys also said that Lieberman would bring star power to any firm, helping to attract new clients. They said that even though he spent most of his political career as a Democrat, his relatively recent shift to a political independent helped reinforce a reputation of someone who sticks to his principals rather than rolling with the political tide.
"It would be like getting Joe DiMaggio to be your high school baseball team’s hitting coach," Anthony R. Minchella, of Minchella & Associates in Middlebury, told the Law Tribune in December. "Lieberman’s political career on the state and national level, his relationships at very high levels of government, and his power-broking skills, all equate to business generation, most likely in a government-relations type practice."
Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman focuses on complex commercial litigation, though it also claims to have one of the leading white collar criminal defense and investigations practices in the country. According to the news release, the firm represents many corporations and executives in regulatory investigations and, often, in complex parallel civil litigation. The firm’s lawyers include numerous former assistant United States attorneys, federal public defenders and assistant district attorneys.
In addition to New York, the firm has offices in New York, California’s Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta, San Francisco, Miami and Newark, N.J.
Marc Kasowitz, the founding and managing partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman, called it "a great day for the firm and for our clients, as there are few individuals whose integrity, character and judgment match that of Senator Lieberman. His incredible breadth of knowledge and experience will be a powerful resource."
Lieberman said despite the fact that he will be working in New York, his new job is a homecoming of sorts.
"There is also a personal side to my joining this firm because I have known Marc Kasowitz and his family from New Haven for more than forty years," Lieberman said. "In fact, Marc volunteered in my first political campaign in 1970," when Lieberman ran for the Connecticut Senate.
Kasowitz’s family lived in the Westville section of New Haven, not far from where Lieberman grew up, and the former senator remembers seeing the elder Kasowitz walking for exercise in the neighborhood. "Our families went to the same synagogue," Lieberman said.
For now, Lieberman is making the commute from Stamford to New York, although he and his wife plan on renting an apartment closer to his new office to be closer to where his children and grandchildren live.
"We’re probably going to begin in the Riverdale section, which is part of the Bronx, close to Westchester County, a nice area," he said. "We’re not quite ready to go all the way into the big city. We have a lot of friends in Connecticut, so it’s a good trip back to Stamford."•