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Former Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White will be returning to Debevoise & Plimpton — where she began her legal career nearly 30 years ago — as a partner and chair of the litigation department, the firm announced Thursday. White, 54, who was U.S. Attorney from June 1993 until January, had been a partner at Debevoise from 1983 until 1990. She was also a summer associate and an associate at the firm in the 1970s. “I studied the situation very hard” said White. “This is the fifth time I’ve made this choice now.” White said she considered many options, including positions in business and academia as well as other law firms, before ultimately deciding to return to Debevoise, which she pronounced “a great fit.” She declined to specify the other positions she had considered. Debevoise, which has more than 500 lawyers worldwide, has a litigation department of about 150 lawyers, including 32 partners. Martin F. Evans, the firm’s presiding partner, said the firm was excited to have her back. “We know her as a person of tremendous energy, values and collegiality,” he said, “and she’s frankly just plain fun to practice law with.” White said she expected to focus her practice in an area she called “businesses in crisis,” in which she included white-collar crime, regulatory issues and corporate internal investigations. She noted that, while the terrorist prosecutions she oversaw as U.S. Attorney certainly received the lion’s share of media attention, she has spent much of her career, in and out of government, focused on complex business crimes, securities fraud and other major commercial disputes. “The current business climate is really a perfect fit with my interests and expertise,” she said, adding that she expected the post-Enron environment to make such a practice focus extremely viable. “It’s a long-term situation without question,”she said. “It’s got the focus of regulators, of Congress and of the industry itself.” White will officially begin at Debevoise June 1, but she said she will be in the office as soon as today in order to get “fully up to speed” on the firm’s litigation department, which has grown threefold since she last left the firm in 1990 to become chief assistant, then acting U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District. In the months since she stepped down as Southern District U.S. Attorney, White has been appearing on panels and making speeches, primarily on legal issues relating to the fight against terrorism. She said she expects to continue speaking publicly on a range of issues. As to any future return to public service, White said, though she planned to stay at Debevoise for some time, she would not rule out anything in the long-term. “One of the wonderful things about Debevoise is its history of having people come in and out of private practice,” she said. White first joined Debevoise as a summer associate while a student at Columbia Law School, from which she graduated in 1974. She joined the firm after graduation, but left for a year to clerk for Southern District of New York Judge Marvin E. Frankel. She returned to Debevoise as an associate in 1976 and left in 1978 to become an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District, where she became chief appellate attorney of the Criminal Division before returning to Debevoise as a partner.

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