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If Al Gore is elected president, O’Melveny & Myers will have a good friend in the White House. Partner Ronald Klain, former chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore, will start a leave of absence Aug. 1 and head to Nashville to work full-time on getting his former boss elected president. Another O’Melveny partner, former acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger, is quietly briefing Gore’s staff on Supreme Court decisions. And, of course, firm patriarch Warren Christopher is leading the search for Gore’s running mate. While other law firms have funneled more dollars into the vice president’s campaign, the Klain-Dellinger-Christopher triumvirate gives O’Melveny more high-level Gore insiders than any other law firm in town. “For some reason, we’ve clustered here,” says Klain, who joined the 700-lawyer Los Angeles-based firm in October 1999 after four years as Gore’s chief of staff. Already, Klain and Dellinger, who joined the firm in 1998, have boosted O’Melveny’s D.C. profile. And in a future Gore administration, the firm’s White House connections would likely prove even more valuable. “Walter and Ron are two of the best lawyers in America. They can bend large spoons with their minds. At the end of the day that’s what we sell,” says incoming firm chairman Arthur “A.B.” Culvahouse Jr., a Washington partner and ardent Republican who served as counsel to President Ronald Reagan during the Iran-Contra investigation. But legal talent is only part of what three Gore cronies bring to O’Melveny, says Richard Wiley, managing partner of D.C.’s Wiley, Rein & Fielding. “It gives clients a feeling that you’re well-connected, that you have access to powerful people,” Wiley says. “It can sometimes be more apparent than real, but it does give you a foot in the door.” PICTURE THIS The 38-year-old Klain doesn’t hide his access to the highest levels of national government. Dozens of photographs hang on the front wall of his office: Klain with Attorney General Janet Reno; Klain with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Klain with President Bill Clinton. Scattered about are an equal number of shots of his family: his wife, Monica Medina, a partner in the D.C. office of San Francisco’s Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe, and their three children — 3, 6, and 9. His resume — three years as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, one year as associate counsel to Clinton, and one year as chief of staff to Reno before joining Gore’s staff at age 34 — seems unlikely for someone his age. In his 10 months at O’Melveny, Klain has stepped into a series of visible matters. He represents U.S. Airways in its merger with United Airlines and America Online in its merger with Time Warner. While U.S. Airways is a longstanding O’Melveny client, AOL had not been before Klain’s arrival. According to Culvahouse, AOL General Counsel Paul Cappuccio — a college and law school classmate of Klain’s, as well as contemporaneous Supreme Court clerk — sought out Klain’s counsel. Klain also serves as primary outside counsel to Fannie Mae in privacy matters. Klain says he joined O’Melveny, after considering offers from three national firms, because he felt he’d have the opportunity to build a substantial litigation practice. “I was interested in doing work where I could combine a high-caliber law practice with insight into politics and public policy. I never wanted to work strictly as a lobbyist,” he says. “My only regret is that I have not yet had the chance to argue my first case in court.” Approximately two weeks ago, Klain, who has remained a consultant to the campaign and a familiar face on the Sunday talk show circuit, told firm leaders of his decision to spend the remainder of the presidential campaign in Nashville, where he will head the rapid response operation commonly referred to as the War Room. An obvious candidate for a presidential appointment, Klain says he plans to return to O’Melveny in November, regardless of the election’s outcome. “I view this as a brief detour,” he says. But for those who recall Klain’s first brush with O’Melveny, the scenario looks a lot like history repeating itself. Back in 1992, after spending three years working for the Senate Judiciary Committee, Klain accepted an offer from O’Melveny and was set to start work at the firm in early September. Before reporting to duty, however, he got a phone call from George Stephanopolous, asking him to join then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton’s long-shot presidential campaign. So Klain went, deferring his start date at O’Melveny until after the November election. When Clinton won, Klain became associate general counsel to the transition team and never left. He held a series of top posts in the White House, the Justice Department, and on Capitol Hill until last year, when he finally started his job at O’Melveny. This time will be different, Klain says. “The day after Election Day, I will be back in this office at work.” He adds, “This is what I always planned on doing. When you’re 13 years out of law school and have never practiced law, it gets harder and harder to persuade people that you can learn.” Culvahouse, who had backed Lamar Alexander early on and has since raised money for George W. Bush, also believes that Klain will soon be back at O’Melveny — though for a different reason. “I have every expectation that Ron will return because, No. 1, I think we’re going to win,” he jokes. NASHVILLE SKYLINE Despite his Republican ties, Culvahouse has been supportive of Klain’s decision to spend the campaign’s final days in Nashville. “When the vice president of the United States asks you to take on a very important assignment in his campaign when his campaign is not doing well, you stand up and say, ‘Yes, sir,’ ” he explains. Described by his partners as “energetic” and “a man of incredible judgment,” Culvahouse is the first chairman to reside outside O’Melveny’s home office in Los Angeles. He replaces Charles Bender and follows in the footsteps of Christopher, who held the position from 1982 to 1992. Christopher now serves as senior partner in the firm’s Century City, Calif., office. He joined O’Melveny in 1950, when the firm had just 50 lawyers. In 1992 he helped Clinton select Gore as his running mate and then served as director of the presidential transition team before being appointed secretary of state. Now, at 74, Christopher is again leading the search for the right individual to complete the Democratic ticket. UNDER THE RADAR SCREEN In contrast with Klain’s and Christopher’s well-documented involvement with the Gore campaign, Dellinger’s advisory role has been less public. According to three close colleagues, Dellinger has provided counsel to the campaign on legal policy issues and briefed the campaign on the implications of recent Supreme Court decisions as they were handed down. Dellinger, 59, a constitutional law professor whose name has been mentioned as a potential Supreme Court nominee, confirms that he has given policy advice to the campaign but declines to comment more specifically. He notes that, as assistant attorney general heading the Office of Legal Counsel from 1993 to 1996, he has had “long friendships” with both Charles Burson, Klain’s successor as Gore chief of staff, and Lisa Brown, the vice president’s current chief counsel. While Dellinger has advised Gore under the radar screen, his work at O’Melveny has drawn focus to the firm’s appellate practice. “We had been, as a firm, a little slow to recognize that as a distinct practice area,” says D.C. managing partner John Beisner. “Walter has done a marvelous job of establishing us as an appellate powerhouse.” Since joining O’Melveny in October 1998, Dellinger has won a 9-0 victory before the Supreme Court for the state of North Carolina in a redistricting case and has represented such corporate clients as the Ford Motor Co., Qwest Communications International Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp., and Time Warner Inc. And he has, by all accounts, adjusted well to law firm life. “I like having a goal,” Dellinger says. “You have a client that has a problem, and you need to get that problem solved.” In the end, problem-solving for clients is rather like working on a campaign, says Klain. “It’s all about determining what arguments are going to be persuasive in different forums, whether that forum is ‘Crossfire’ or the 11th Circuit.”

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