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Robert Bennett knows a thing or two about handling a client whose name has been tarnished by allegations of sexual misconduct. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that a group calling itself the Committee for Fairness to Duke Families hired Bill Clinton’s former lawyer for help in the racially charged scandal that’s enveloped the university’s lacrosse team. Though it remains unclear how Bennett became involved in the case, at least two of the Duke players have strong ties to the D.C. legal community: Their fathers are partners at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Reed Smith. The team’s image has been hammered since Durham, N.C., police opened an investigation into allegations that three men at a lacrosse-team party raped a black woman who had been hired as an exotic dancer. Though Bennett reportedly won’t be directly representing any of the individual players in the criminal investigation, it’s likely he’ll be providing behind-the-scenes guidance for a team that’s already seen its season canceled by the university. “From a standpoint of being able to discern and discuss strategy, you’d want somebody like Bob,” says E. Lawrence Barcella Jr., a partner at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker. Bennett, a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, didn’t return repeated phone calls seeking comment on his new client. Though Bennett is admired as a tenacious litigator, the entry of a $700-an-hour lawyer is unlikely to dispel the view of the team as an elitist clique of prep-school kids. “Rich persons are able to hire whoever they’re able to hire,” says Bishop John Bennett, a pastor at the mainly black Church of the Apostolic Revival in Durham who has helped rally support for the alleged victim.
Jason McLure can be contacted at [email protected].

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