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Todd Finger says this is what made him crazy in 1992: “I’m an undergrad at Emory University in Atlanta, and there’s this uncontested candidate for president of the student government.” Remembering this, all these years later, Finger makes a sound of exasperation. “She was the 500-pound gorilla, the popular one, the one nobody dared to oppose.” So he ran a dark horse campaign and won. Thus did President Finger assume office in Atlanta on the same January day of 1993 as another come-from-behind campaigner was inaugurated in Washington, D.C. “I actually sent him a letter, which now seems terribly na�ve and embarrassing,” said Finger, now a fourth-year associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison who was given leave from the firm to work as lead advance man in Vice President Al Gore’s presidential campaign. “I wrote, ‘From one president to another, I need a summer job.’ “ For months, President Finger heard nothing. Then, just before the semester ended, he received A Call From The White House: Please send your r�sum�, a personal statement, and letters of recommendation from a passel of machers. And get it to Washington in three days. Which he did. “I didn’t hear anything for a long time. The semester’s over, and I’m sitting at home in Long Beach [N.Y.], figuring I’d spend the summer being a valet parking lot guy at the country club again.” When again comes A Call: Can you get down here to the White House for orientation? “I am assigned to the Office of Scheduling and Advance. Somewhere in the description of what this office does, there is the word ‘travel,’ which seemed pretty cool. They put me to work in the mailroom, which wasn’t so cool.” Not to worry. Young Finger was being watched. “We’re always looking for the type who can do the advance person’s job without any training because we don’t have time for training,” said a political colleague of Finger’s, a Clinton operative who prefers to remain nameless these days as he responds to the help-wanted ads. “Say you’re invited to a Sunday brunch for six, and the host is serving fish. Okay, your job is to convince the host that it should be a steak dinner for 12 on Saturday, and that it’s all his idea.” It seemed to the watchers that the new guy in the mailroom filled the bill. Accordingly, he was sounded out. The boss asked if he would care to start traveling. Finger said yes, and he was off to West Virginia that night. “I am now traveling with a White House advance team to Charleston, not having any idea what the hell I’m supposed to do,” Finger recollects. Somebody tells him he’s supposed to set up a meeting between the new president — Clinton, that is — and Governor Gaston Caperton. “They tell me the mansion doesn’t have a big gate or anything, I’m just supposed to go up to the door. “I knock. Some guy answers. I tell him, I’m here to see the governor about speaking with the president. The guy lets me in the door. Much to my embarrassment, it’s Governor Caperton himself. “We get all get along, though, and we have a party.” As his numerous FOTs (Friends of Todd) would attest, it was very Todd Finger. “In fact, we wound up crashing for the night in the governor’s mansion. Let’s just say, everybody was more comfortable with us not driving back to the hotel.” Following Finger’s test of fire in Charleston where he rounded up a throng of 15,000 to cheer Bill Clinton, it was back to Emory. But he would continue receiving White House calls, much to the irritation of professors asked to excuse him from class. There was, for instance, the case of Professor Ken Stein, Finger’s nationally prominent instructor in Middle Eastern studies and Israeli history. One fine day in Atlanta, Stein was on deck to speak at the Carter Center. President Clinton was en route to the event, escorted by Finger. “As the President of the United States and I were walking into the place, I see my professor, and so I said, ‘Hey, Ken, give me a few minutes, I’m tied up.’ “ Very Todd Finger. “He’s a bold fellow,” said Kara McGuire, a New York communications consultant who has worked with Finger on a number of overseas trips with the president. “It makes him a good lawyer.” Toby Myerson, a corporate partner at Paul Weiss, and Finger’s boss in the firm’s Internet, Media and Technology Group, agrees. “He’s very bright, very talented,” he said of Finger. “He’s got a good presence, excellent judgment, very good lawyer skills, and technical knowledge. “What sets him apart is he’s got a lot of perspective, and a number of extra interests,” Myerson said. “Asking the firm for leave takes a lot of self-confidence.” Such confidence was key one day during the Gore campaign, namely the time Finger went nose-to-nose with the chief of police of Portland, Ore. Nearby were 10,000 partisans whom Finger had scheduled to be giddy during local television prime-time. Surveying the crowd, the chief asked, “Where’s your permit?” “There were two types of permits,” Finger reminisced. “The right one, and the one I had.” The chief explained how it was his duty to disperse the giddy photo-op. “There’s one thing in this world I can’t change, and that is the fact that the Vice President of the United States of America will be standing right here in exactly one hour,” Finger told the chief. “No one can change that, including yourself. So, we need to figure out a way to make this work.” It occurred to the chief that the mayor might be helpful. Ultimately, a special emergency decree was issued from Hizzonor’s office. It then became Finger’s duty to thank the chief and the mayor for saving the day. Happiness abounded. “You have to come up with solutions before most people realize there’s a problem,” said Finger. “You don’t have time to discuss the problem. You only time to solve the issue.” Time is eaten up by the frequent explosions of best laid plans, adrenaline rushes, and the mountain of dreary detail work that comes with the territory. “It isn’t all glamour,” said Andrew Fink, a certified FOT, and general counsel for the digital communications firm of Deltathree Inc. “The other side of it is making sure that the bathroom in a given venue has proper toilet paper. “But being an advance man, it’s got to be a great line for him,” said Fink of his bachelor pal. “He’s out there every night of the week as far as I can tell.” This is not to say that Finger — son of the late attorney William Finger, a sole practitioner in Mineola, N.Y. — stints on the company clock. “We hope to keep him around for a good long time,” said Myerson. At Paul Weiss, a “good long time” has a tradition of meaning “sometimes.” As in, sometimes a member of the firm is handling casework and sometimes a member is off serving in government. Among the partners at Paul Weiss today are Theodore C. Sorensen, an advisor to John F. Kennedy; Jeh Johnson, the current general counsel of the U.S. Air Force; and Warren Rudman, the former Republican U.S. Senator from New Hampshire. What of Todd Finger’s future with the firm? A graduate of the New York University School of Law, he had nearly a dozen offers upon passing the State Bar exam. “I chose Paul Weiss because of its history, because of the incredible support for people’s outside interests,” Finger said. “I’m happy here. This is a unique firm, with the freedoms they give you and the responsibilities they give you.” Finger takes a beat. “I’ll see what happens when it’s time to go back to New Hampshire.

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