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Steven Zipperstein, the new vice president for legal and external affairs, general counsel, and secretary of Bedminster, New Jersey-based Verizon Wireless, has the kind of job many lawyers plot and maneuver to attain. But to hear him tell it, the 44-year-old’s path from law firm to government to in-house has been driven not by methodical career mapping but simply by passion for his work. After four years as an associate at Los Angeles-based Hufstedler, Miller, Carlson & Beardsley, Zipperstein joined the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles. He planned to get some trial experience and return to the firm. His first trial lasted three days; the defendant was convicted; and Zipperstein was hooked. “It was incredibly fun, stimulating, interesting, and challenging,” he says. In the spring of 1992 U.S. Department of Justice lawyers flew into Los Angeles to prosecute the police officers charged with beating Rodney King. Zipperstein befriended many of the lawyers, including the assistant attorney general for the criminal division, Robert Mueller (now director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation). When the trial was over, Mueller invited Zipperstein to work as his special counsel. Zipperstein grabbed the offer and moved with his wife and three daughters to Washington, D.C. There he got to know attorney general William Barr. Late in 1993, Zipperstein accepted an offer to become chief assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles and moved his family back to the West Coast. But his East Coast colleagues didn’t forget Zipperstein. In 1996 he got a call from Barr, then GC of GTE Corporation, asking him to join his law department. Intrigued by changes in the industry arising from the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Zipperstein accepted. “It was a tremendously interesting time to go from being a federal prosecutor to being a corporate lawyer,” he recalls. “The act had transformed telecom from a monopoly to a competitive industry.” When GTE merged with Bell Atlantic in June 2000, forming Verizon Communications, Barr got the top legal job and asked Zipperstein to become his deputy GC. Once again, the family packed up and moved east. This time, Zipperstein intends to stay. As GC of Verizon Wireless, he oversees a 50-lawyer department. The big challenges ahead, he says, are dealing with increasing government regulation and taxation of the wireless industry. Looks like his government experience will come in handy.

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