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With a second Bush administration on its way, the list of available lawyers on local firms’ wish lists is decidedly smaller than it may have been had John Kerry won the election. But the revolving door between the government and private practice will keep turning regardless, and with that in mind Legal Times asked a number of recruiters and lawyers at D.C.-area law firms whom they consider to be the hottest hires and the biggest “gets” among lawyers who may be leaving the administration. While many were willing to name names when asked about administration officials, they requested anonymity when it came to their own. What follows, then, is a wish list of sorts. Moving between the government and private practice can promise a big payday for upper-level administration officials. Big names can trade their policy experience and their government contacts for up to six times their government salary. SURFING THE SEC One agency where it seems administration officials can write their own ticket is the Securities and Exchange Commission. Recruiters say anyone with SEC enforcement experience is considered golden. The top name on most people’s lips is current Director of Enforcement Stephen Cutler. “Cutler is the man,” says one recruiter. Another says, “He is a slam dunk. Once he decides to move on, everyone will be all over him.” One recruiter heard that Cutler may be in talks to join the D.C. office of Davis Polk & Wardwell. While Davis Polk only has a small local office for the moment, the firm would bulk up its D.C. presence in order to land him. Other recruiters believe the move would make sense since Cutler’s deputy, Linda Thomsen, was at the firm before she joined the SEC. A Davis Polk spokesman says the firm has no comment. For his part, Cutler declined to comment on his future plans except to say that he loves what he does. But if he were to leave, the head of one securities enforcement practice at a D.C. firm says Cutler’s combination of skills — heading the Enforcement Division and his history at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr — make him unique among SEC recruits. One recruiter puts his salary potential at $1 million plus. And another says he will easily make the top of any firm’s pay scale. Cutler came into office in October 2001 and confronted a market plagued by corporate scandal, including the collapse of the Enron Corp. As chief of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, he brought an unprecedented number of enforcement actions. He also facilitated the settlement between Wall Street banks and New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer over the banks’ alleged conflicts of interest. “He has been very visible,” says one recruiter. “So who better to take to your clients than the top cop?” Running a close second to Cutler is his deputy, Thomsen, an attorney recruiters say is definitely on firms’ wish lists. “She is probably talked about the most besides Cutler,” says one. However, the pervading sense is that she may not be ready to move on from the government yet. In the past few months, the SEC has already experienced a few defections from its ranks as deputies and assistants made the jump into private practice. Most notable was Thomas Newkirk, the associate director of the Enforcement Division, who jumped ship to Jenner & Block, where he will officially begin later this month. JUSTICE JUICE While the future of Attorney General John Ashcroft is currently the subject of much speculation, some local firms have their eye on his deputy, James Comey. Legal Times reported last month that Comey was not a serious candidate to replace Ashcroft because of White House political concerns. “Comey is going to be huge,” says one recruiter. “He is a real lawyer, not a politician, and the fact that he is not going to be attorney general can only help him.” Another managing partner calls him a top pick, saying, “Absolutely Comey. He could go anywhere and be successful.” Comey is a long-time federal prosecutor and a former U.S. attorney who also briefly worked in private practice for Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in New York and McGuireWoods in Richmond, Va. He declined to comment through a Justice Department spokesman, who said Comey stressed that he is a career prosecutor who loves his job. In addition, DOJ antitrust chief R. Hewitt Pate, Civil Division leader Peter Keisler, and the Criminal Division’s top official, Christopher Wray, are highly regarded, says one managing partner. Another possible recruiting prospect could be acting Solicitor General Paul Clement. However, sources say it is unlikely he would leave, given Bush’s re-election and former Solicitor General Theodore Olson’s recent return to Gibson, Dunn. He is widely thought of as a top pick to succeed Olson. Figuring out where Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge may land has become something of a parlor game in the District, since he is one Cabinet member widely expected to leave before the second term. One recruiter speculates that he may end up at Blank Rome, a firm that he has been closely associated with for years. The only question is whether he would stay in the District or return home to Pennsylvania. But another managing partner doesn’t see Ridge returning to a law firm, instead preferring a company like the Lockheed Martin Corp. or the Boeing Co. The partner believes a law firm wouldn’t be challenging enough for Ridge, a former governor of Pennsylvania. And while he doesn’t see Ridge going to Blank Rome, he thinks the Republican-leaning firm might be the perfect place for fellow Cabinet member Ashcroft. However, another managing partner thinks Missouri-native Ashcroft would probably head to Bryan Cave, a firm based in St. Louis. PRESSING FOR IP The intellectual property area is another practice that has seen a number of high-profile officials join private firms in recent months. Just last month, Stephen Kunin, deputy commissioner of patent examination policy at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, joined the Alexandria patent boutique Oblon, Spivak, McCelland, Maier & Neustadt. And in January, James Rogan, the former director of the PTO, rejoined his old firm, Venable. That leaves Jon Dudas, Rogan’s replacement, as the most attractive candidate available, according to recruiters, but there is little chance he will move on since he has only been in the position since June 2004. Asked for comment, Dudas would only say that he is honored that people thought of him. “I can think of a number of IP firms, especially those with strong trademark and copyright practices, that would fight for Jon Dudas,” says one recruiter. Another name mentioned is Deputy Secretary of Commerce Ted Kassinger. Kassinger focused his practice on international trade and transnational dispute resolution at Vinson & Elkins prior to joining the administration. However, he too was appointed to his current position only a few months ago. FOOD FIGHT There remains a need for experts on Medicare and pharmaceutical issues, according to one recruiter. Two names mentioned as possible prospects for the private sector are Food and Drug Administration General Counsel Daniel Troy and FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford. Troy, who spent most of his career at Wiley Rein & Fielding, says he is flattered by the mention, saying, “I fully intend to return to private practice one day when I leave this job.” However, he declined to give a hint as to when he may make the move. The head of a food and drug practice at another D.C. firm says his firm is considering a few possibilities — but they aren’t big names. He worries that some senior administration officials carry political baggage that could scare off some clients. “I am in the camp that you go after some of the deputies,” he says. “They can be a better deal.” Sometimes the big name people work more with policy, he says, while the deputies have more hands-on experience and a smaller paycheck.

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