Ileana Ros-Lehtinen


Former Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, one of many former members of Congress now moving into the private sector, has joined Texas-founded Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

Akin Gump has also hired former Texas Congressman Lamar Smith, the firm said Monday.

“As a firm that operates at the intersection of business, law and policy, we recognize the valuable skills, knowledge and perspectives that Reps. Ros-Lehtinen and Smith bring to our clients,” said Akin Gump chairperson Kim Koopersmith in a statement. “They will be great additions to our top-tier policy practice, and I am very proud to welcome two individuals with such long and distinguished careers on Capitol Hill to the firm.

Ros-Lehtinen, who doesn’t hold a law degree, will work as a senior adviser in the firm’s public law and policy practice based in Washington, D.C.

“As home to the largest public policy practice in Washington, Akin Gump has always been a successful advocate on behalf of its clients, both domestic and foreign, on trade matters and other critical issues,” said Ros-Lehtinen in a statement. “My move here builds so well on the work I have accomplished during my time in Congress, and I am excited to begin this next chapter in my career.”

After 36 years in public office — nearly 30 of those years in the U.S. Congress representing South Florida, Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement last year in an op-ed in the Miami Herald.

“This is a personal decision based on personal considerations,” wrote Ros-Lehtinen. Democrat Donna Shalala eventually defeated her Republican opponent Maria Elvira Salazar last November to replace Ros-Lehtinen.

Ros-Lehtinen was the first Cuban-American elected to Congress when she won her first congressional election in 1989, and the first Hispanic woman to serve in the Florida House, Florida Senate and U.S. Congress. Among her biggest policy achievements was her role in passing Florida’s prepaid college-tuition program.

Akin Gump isn’t the only big law firm picking up attorneys with government experience. Holland & Knight recently announced it hired former Republican Virginia Congressman Tom Davis as partner in its public policy practice group based in D.C. and Tysons, Virginia.

Davis served in Congress for 14 years before retiring in 2008. He was previously with Deloitte, where he was director of federal government affairs.

Lawyers have long bounced between the public and private sector, a process often referred to as “the revolving door.” Notable recent examples include former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates’ move to King & Spalding and, in the other direction, former U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s journey from Kirkland & Ellis back to the Justice Department pending his nomination to U.S. Attorney General.

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