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Not many GCs find their jobs in the want ads, especially not coveted public interest positions. But Cynthia Lewin learned that the GC spot at the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) was open by reading the Washington Post classifieds. At the time, Lewin, 49, was executive vice president and GC of Volunteers of America (VOA), a nonprofit based in Alexandria, Virginia, that provides community-based social services. But after eight years there, she was ready for a change. NWF is smaller than VOA in terms of total revenue (about $115 million to VOA’s $710 million). But NWF concentrates more of its resources in its Reston, Virginia, headquarters. VOA is decentralized, with large affiliates accounting for most of its operations. After five rounds of interviews with NWF, Lewin landed the job. She took over from Eileen Johnson, who was at the federation for 20 years, including eight as GC. Johnson moved to Whiteford, Taylor & Preston’s Washington, D.C., office. As NWF’s GC, Lewin manages the day-to-day legal issues of running a large nonprofit. She’s aided by a staff of two lawyers and one paralegal. Lewin also oversees the group’s human resources, office services, and information technology departments. On top of this, Lewin approves the caseload of ten environmental litigators. Based in nine field offices, they bring class actions and regulatory suits to preserve animal habitat. “They write me these fabulous memos about why these issues are incredibly important and what the winning argument is likely to be,” says Lewin. “If they can convince me, they get to [sue and] find out if it’s the winning argument.” NWF has fought legal battles that helped protect the bald eagle and grizzly bear, and reintroduced wolves to Yellowstone National Park. But Lewin doesn’t linger over the organization’s victories. She’s too eager to talk about its new focus: global warming. “It’s an issue that’s critical for all kinds of wildlife,” she says. Lewin says that NWF has already started working global warming themes into its children’s magazine, Ranger Rick, which has a circulation of more than 500,000. She plans to have the federation’s global warming litigation strategy lined out this summer. For now, she’s immersed in advising the head of NWF’s newly formed lobbying arm.

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