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Gregory S. Smith’s chance-of-a-lifetime job may last only six months, but he’s willing to take it. On July 10, Smith, who has spent the past decade with the Federal Defender Program Inc. in Atlanta, will join the White House counsel’s office as an associate counsel to President Clinton. “It’s an honor to be getting this job,” Smith says. “It’s an honor to serve the president.” Of course, with an election looming in November, Smith acknowledges the honor may be short-lived. White House lawyers serve at the pleasure of the president, and according to White House Deputy Counsel William P. Marshall, these jobs end Jan. 20. “We can be asked to continue, but nothing’s guaranteed,” he says. Smith says he’s hoping for a victory by presidential candidate and Vice President Al Gore, because that might give him the chance to stay on. Whatever the outcome, he says he’s motivated by “the chance to be in Washington, the chance to be part of history, the chance to work with really good people, to be exposed to new things. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.” Less than a month ago, he says, a classmate from his law school days at the University of North Carolina contacted him about the job. Now in private practice, she had worked at the office and thought he might be interested. After a whirlwind of interviews and background and reference checks, he got an offer. Smith, whose wife is expecting a baby in December, says they’ll rent out their house in Atlanta. He was in Washington on Wednesday, apartment-hunting. He’ll work with approximately 16 other lawyers, including the first female White House counsel, Beth Nolan. Marshall says the job is equivalent to serving as an in-house counsel, and encompasses consulting, advice and working on investigations. The office does not represent the president in personal matters. One of its most visible duties during this administration was, of course, then White House Counsel Charles Ruff’s defense of Clinton during impeachment proceedings on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury stemming from Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky. More recent matters include the Justice Department’s investigation into whether the White House illegally suppressed thousands of e-mail messages subpoenaed in investigations of campaign fundraising. Though Smith’s background is litigation, it’s not something he’ll be doing in his new job, because the Justice Department handles all White House litigation. Still, Smith’s reputation, skills and judgment helped him land the White House job, says Marshall. Smith was a corporate litigator at King & Spalding in Atlanta before joining the Federal Defender Program. While with the program, he says he had 20 to 30 trials and a similar number of appeals. He also argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, winning U.S. v. Granderson, a case against the solicitor general about sentencing issues in 1994. For Smith, the law has been quite a journey. “From King & Spalding to here, I went from the richest clients to the poorest,” he says of his move from the firm, which grossed $259 million in 1999, to the Federal Defender Program, which represents indigent clients. “And from here, I am going from the least powerful clients to maybe the most powerful.”

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