Left to right: Gregory Katsas of Jones Day; Hunton & Williams’ David Higbee; and Ralph Ferrara of Proskauer Rose. ()
They hail from the capital, the rust belt, Manhattan and Texas, with titles ranging from associate to partner. They specialize in the Department of Justice, national intelligence, financial regulation, currency, education and labor. The nearly four dozen Am Law firm-affiliated lawyers who are advising President-elect Donald Trump’s executive branch transition bring a wealth of legal backgrounds.
As in past presidential transitions, the lawyers donate their time for a mix of reasons, including political conviction and party loyalty. They’re also positioning themselves to know the players—or to become the players—in the next administration.
It’s a game of D.C. connections. Even though these lawyer volunteers aren’t lobbyists, every one of their firms represents corporate interests.
Some of the lawyers’ names won’t surprise you. Others might. (See a full list below.)
There are five Jones Day lawyers—the most from any single firm. That group includes Donald McGahn II, who will be Trump’s White House counsel, and Gregory Katsas, who could be the next U.S. solicitor general.
Kirkland & Ellis counts three transition volunteers. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; McGuireWoods and Latham & Watkins each have two attorneys volunteering. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, home to D.C. legal luminaries Eugene Scalia, son of the late Antonin Scalia, and former Republican solicitor general Ted Olson, has two associates on the transition roster.
Hunton & Williams’ Washington office managing partner, David Higbee, is advising on the Justice Department transition. Ralph Ferrara of Proskauer Rose, a former Securities and Exchange Commission general counsel who had a front-row seat to the collapse of his former firm, Dewey & LeBoeuf, is advising the transition on the Federal Reserve Board.
Some are offering advice on more than one agency team. Heath Tarbert, an Allen & Overy partner in D.C., volunteers on the transition for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Thomas Wheeler II of Frost Brown Todd in Indianapolis advises on Justice and on the Department of Education.
Bradley Bondi, brother to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and a partner at Cahill Gordon & Reindel in D.C., consults on Export-Import Bank issues.
All Big Law lawyers at work on the transition donate their time. (One, Robert MacKichan Jr. of Holland & Knight, is listed by the transition as a privately funded adviser. He said he should have identified himself to the transition team as a volunteer but did not because he is still employed by his firm. He reports to Holland & Knight his time working on the transition as non-billable hours.)
One Big Law affiliate, Nova Daly of Wiley Rein, is not a lawyer. A registered lobbyist, he worked for Century Aluminum, steelmaker Nucor Corp., Solarworld Industries America Inc. and U.S.-based rebar and aluminum industry groups in 2016, according to lobbying disclosures, and he holds the title of senior public policy adviser at the regulatory law firm. His involvement appears to flout the transition’s policy that bans lobbyists.
Three lawyers on the list also registered as federal lobbyists in 2016: Matthew Morgan of Barnes & Thornburg, who lobbies for local governments in the Midwest; Mark Paoletta, formerly of DLA Piper, who lobbied for Oracle Corp. and the PGA Tour on tax issues and the Affordable Care Act; and Reed Rubinstein of Dinsmore & Shohl, who lobbies for the victims and survivors of the Fort Hood mass shooting. Both Paoletta and Morgan may be among the closest to Trump’s White House inner circle, as they are advising on the transition in the Executive Office of the President. Several other transition volunteers worked as lobbyists in previous years, especially for energy, steel and other U.S. manufacturing industries.
Daly and others who’ve volunteered for the transition declined to comment; the transition has reportedly asked all staff and volunteers to sign non-disclosure agreements. The transition’s media relations staff didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Contact Katelyn Polantz at email@example.com. On Twitter: @kpolantz.