John Carlin, Assistant Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice National Security Division, during the American Bar Association’s 24th Annual Review of the Field of National Security Law Conference in Washington. The topic: “Executive Branch Updates on Developments in National Security Law.” November 6, 2014. Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/THE NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL. (Diego M. Radzinschi)
John Carlin, who stepped down last year as the top official for national security at the U.S. Department of Justice, is joining private practice for the first time to start a practice group at Morrison & Foerster.
MoFo announced Tuesday its addition of Carlin as a partner in New York, where the longtime federal government lawyer will chair the firm’s new global risk and crisis management practice.
“It really seems like the easiest decision we’ve made in a long time to bring John in,” said Los Angeles-based MoFo partner David McDowell, co-chair of the firm’s litigation department. “John has unprecedented experience in the space, cybersecurity, economic espionage and a number of other places where the world is seeing a new set of risks and a new set of concerns and certainly we expect our clients will be very focused on and worried about those as time goes on.”
In October, Carlin stepped down from his position as an assistant U.S. attorney general at Main Justice in Washington, D.C. Over the course of his two-year tenure as head of the Justice Department’s national security division, Carlin oversaw investigations into the email hacking scandal at Sony Pictures Entertainment, the prosecution of the Boston Marathon bomber and the indictment of five Chinese military members on economic espionage charges.
“Full sectors who never thought of themselves as tech before, and weren’t, are now facing some of the same problems and opportunities that are faced by more traditional tech companies,” Carlin said in an interview Tuesday. “That requires a new way of legal thinking and joining a firm that was already a leader in the tech space seemed like a good fit.”
Carlin joined the Justice Department as a trial attorney in 1999. Since then the Harvard Law School graduate has held several positions in the federal law enforcement apparatus, such as serving as an assistant U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia and a national coordinator of the Justice Department’s computer hacking and intellectual property program.
In 2007, Carlin worked as chief of staff and senior counsel to then-FBI director Robert Mueller III, who joined Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr in 2014. That same year, Carlin was appointed assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s national security division, a role that saw him deliver periodic remarks on threats facing the nation, such as cyberattacks, espionage and terrorism.
Since leaving the Justice Department late last year, Carlin spent the intervening months speaking with various firms about potential opportunities in the private sector. He tapped Stephen Springer, a partner at legal recruiting giant Major, Lindsey & Africa in Washington, D.C., to assist him in the process. Carlin said he finally chose MoFo as a result of the firm’s collaborative culture and global platform in the technology space.
“Morrison & Foerster already had the best practices in the world when it comes to privacy and data security,” Carlin said in reference to the San Francisco-based firm’s recent additions of high-ranking government lawyers.
In September, MoFo brought on Kathryn “Katie” Thomson, a former general counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation and chief counsel of the Federal Aviation Administration, as a partner and chair of its transportation group in Washington, D.C. In April 2016, MoFo raided Jenner & Block for an eight-partner government contracts team in the nation’s capital that included Jessie Liu, a former deputy chief of staff in the Justice Department’s national security division who recently snagged a role on President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team.
Some of Carlin’s friends and former colleagues at Main Justice are also partners at MoFo. Charles “Chuck” DuRoss and James Koukios, a former head and deputy chief of the Justice Department’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act anticorruption unit, became partners at the firm in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Carlin plans to work alongside both lawyers and others on corporate governance issues in an age where cybersecurity and data protection are paramount.
“As we transition to a new administration the threat has not gone away,” Carlin said. “The risks are high when it comes to cybersecurity, and a lot remains to be done and I expect it to be a top priority for the incoming crew.”
The Wall Street Journal first reported the news of MoFo’s addition of Carlin. The firm announced last week its addition of Wilmer business restructuring and insolvency partner Dennis Jenkins in Boston, MoFo’s second partner-level hire from the firm in recent months.
In October, MoFo brought on biopharmaceutical IP litigation partners David Manspeizer and Greg Chopskie from Wilmer and Gilead Sciences Inc., respectively. Manspeizer is based in New York, where MoFo recently hired Foley & Lardner corporate partner Tracy Bacigalupo. Chopskie, a former associate general counsel at biopharma firm Gilead, is based in Washington, D.C.