Gregory A. Vega
Of counsel, Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek, San Diego
CURRENT PRACTICE: Vega handles various kinds of business litigation and represents clients before federal, state and local regulatory agencies. Much of his work is for the jet aircraft chartering industry and the gaming industry.
INITIAL CAREER GOALS: He planned to build on his undergraduate degree in accounting and become a tax attorney.
STARTING OUT: He joined the chief counsel’s office for the Internal Revenue Service in 1980 and was soon litigating federal tax cases before the U.S. Tax Court. Most of the cases focused on when the government would impose a 50 percent tax penalty for fraud. “That steered me into the fraud area and into the area of federal criminal prosecutions,” he says.
In 1983, Vega jumped to the U.S. Attorney’s Office to do jury trials. “I had numerous bench trials in U.S. tax court,” he says. “But trying cases to juries would expand my horizons as an attorney.” In early 1999, Vega was appointed the U.S. Attorney for the southern district of California. He ran the office through May 2001, when the new Bush administration chose a different political appointee.
NEW WORLD: Vega entered the private sector in the summer of 2001. “I looked at several law firms and nonlaw-related companies, but then made a decision at the end of June to go to Seltzer,” he says, “because of the outstanding civil litigators in the firm.”
GROWING PAINS: Vega’s greatest difficulty in changing jobs was “simply transitioning from the government sector to the private sector.” The demands in the two fields are quite different.
CAREER TIP: “Explore all available options. You shouldn’t pigeonhole yourself into one particular area of law if you don’t have to.”
Charles A. Blanchard
Partner, Brown & Bain, Phoenix
CURRENT PRACTICE: Blanchard’s clients are primarily high-tech companies, but he engages in diverse business litigation practices. “I do some intellectual property, some securities and some hodge-podge litigation,” he says. Most of his litigations are in federal court.
INITIAL CAREER GOALS: Blanchard wanted a career that would allow him to go back and forth between the public and private sectors. “You can always go back to private law practice,” he says, “and it is a fascinating, interesting practice.”
STARTING OUT: He had accepted a job at Brown & Bain but put that off for a year in order “to have an adventure” — working for the office of independent counsel, which was investigating the Reagan administration’s involvement in the Wedtech scandal. Blanchard prepared pretrial briefs, subpoenaed documents and presented witnesses before the grand jury. “It was a wonderful first job,” he says.
He began working for Brown & Bain in 1988 and stayed until 1997, becoming a partner along the way. However, he worked at the firm approximately half-time from January 1991 until January 1995, while he was serving two terms in the Arizona Senate.
After two years of purely private sector work, in 1997 Blanchard took the job of chief counsel for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (aka the drug czar). “I was not just acting as a lawyer; I was able to put my finger on policy issues,” he says. “And it was fun being a part of the White House staff.” Among the wide-ranging issues he worked on: the anti-drug media campaign, inner-city drug treatment programs and sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine.
NEW WORLD: In September 1999, the U.S. Senate confirmed Blanchard as general counsel for the Army, making him responsible for the overall supervision of the Army’s 2,000 lawyers. He served until the end of the Clinton administration. “I left the day of the [Bush] inaugural, got married a month later, then my wife and I moved back to Phoenix and Brown & Bain,” he says.
GROWING PAINS: “With any new position, there is a huge learning curve, especially in [government] policymaking positions,” he says. Because tenure in those positions is often brief, he adds, “the challenge is to quickly go up the learning curve so you can not only have fun but make a real difference.”
CAREER TIP: “Hone your negotiating skills. I have found those skills are far more important than jury trial skills. And they are transferable from the public to the private sector.”
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