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It’s an in-house role like no other. Only a handful of positions open up every four years, and most of the jobs will be part of a losing effort. The hours are long, the decisions are stressful, the scrutiny is intense, and the pay is low. But lawyers who have worked on a presidential campaign say that they wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Christine Varney, chief counsel for Bill Clinton’s 1992 White House run, says the job “challenges every resource you have, and all your training.” Now a partner at Hogan & Hartson, Varney explains, “It’s like starting up a small business that begins slowly, grows rapidly, and then quickly ends � all in a highly regulated environment.” The 2004 presidential race kicks into high gear on January 19 with the Iowa caucuses, followed by the New Hampshire primary eight days later. The nine Democratic contenders and President George Bush already have general or chief counsel in place. While most of these lawyers declined to be interviewed, attorneys from past campaigns are more expansive. They say that working on a presidential run calls for a lawyer who has broad practice skills, a thorough knowledge of election law, and the ability to rein in overeager staff members. Part-Time Vs. Full-Time Some lawyers take a leave of absence from their firm as a campaign turns hot. That’s what Ronald Klain, a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of O’Melveny & Myers, did when he worked on both of Clinton’s presidential campaigns. Klain was also general counsel to Al Gore’s Florida recount committee in the 2000 election aftermath, and is advising Wesley Clark this year. Other attorneys say they’re only called in for big issues and leave the campaign’s daily operations to other lawyers under their supervision. Kenneth Gross, a partner in the D.C. office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, took this approach when serving as counsel on both of Bob Dole’s presidential runs, in 1988 and 1996. The legal work of a campaign attorney runs the gamut, Gross explains. “You have leases and contracts for everything, from offices to advertising to airplanes,” as well as typical liability and employment issues. Gross adds that campaign counsel must also understand the complex array of federal election laws and regulations, especially their fund-raising and financial reporting aspects. According to Robert Bauer, a veteran campaign lawyer, this produces the toughest part of the job: telling a passionate staff member that something, such as accepting a certain donation, is illegal. Bauer, who chairs the political law group in the D.C. office of Perkins Coie, serves as counsel to three Democratic candidates this year: Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, and Joe Lieberman. Bauer explains, “I play what I call free safety” � a football term for a defender who assists on key plays. “I am available to all [three campaigns] to address issues or consult generally on problems.” The arrangement was possible, Bauer says, because he obtained consent letters from the three Democratic contenders. Additionally, he has assigned a separate Perkins attorney to handle routine matters for each candidate. (The D.C. firm of Ryan, Phillips, Utrecht & MacKinnon is also advising multiple Democratic candidates this year � name partner Carolyn Utrecht for Carol Moseley Braun and John Edwards, and of counsel Eric Kleinfeld for Howard Dean. Utrecht and Kleinfeld declined to comment.) All of the lawyers interviewed for this story say that they haven’t won or lost clients because of their campaign work. But most agree that the contacts they’ve developed have helped their practices, which are generally focused on politics and government. According to Benjamin Ginsberg, a Patton Boggs partner who served as chief outside counsel to George Bush in 2000 and holds the same post in the 2004 race, “We represent campaigns and political committees, and our clients know that.” Former Clinton and Gore counsel Klain adds, “Occasionally, there is ribbing from clients who have a different political view, especially when you lose.” And indeed, anyone who works on a campaign knows that most end in defeat. That can make for a hard finish. “The lawyer is the last one standing,” Gross explains. “The day after the campaign, everyone else disappears and leaves the lawyer still looking at lingering legal issues, sometimes even lawsuits.” But most counsel say that the drawbacks of a campaign are outweighed by its attractions � like the “joy and spirit of the organization,” Ginsberg says. “There is this bright, young, caffeine-and-sugar energy,” he explains. Staffers “work hard and play hard. I love to just hang out around the campaign office; it’s a lot more interesting than being in the law firm. But the coffee’s not as good.”

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