The largest government relations law firm in Washington, D.C., has expanded its government relations expertise with a new hire from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Raphael Prober, who spent almost 18 months as an associate deputy attorney general at Main Justice, will return to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & feld to serve as co-leader of the firm’s congressional investigations practice. He worked at Akin Gump for more than seven years, making partner in 2013, before entering public service in early 2015.
“While the firm is justifiably thrilled he decided to come back, no one is more excited than I am,” said Steven Ross, co-leader of Akin Gump’s congressional investigations group. He noted that the Justice Department gave Prober “an invaluable understanding of how the mind of a government lawyer, government investigator, or government prosecutor might think of any set of facts in the future.”
Prober will be the highest-ranking former Justice Department official to join Akin Gump from the Obama administration.
Akin Gump, by acquiring a large group of lobbyists and lawyers from Patton Boggs three years ago, asserted itself as the largest government relations group in the nation’s capital, particularly in congressional lobbying and health care policy matters. Even with Prober’s addition, Akin Gump’s expansion has not matched the level of Justice Department talent that other firms have hired in Washington, D.C., such Covington & Burling, Morrison & Foerster and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr.
“The Washington, D.C., brand of the law firm is one of our greatest strengths,” said Kim Koopersmith, Akin Gump’s first female leader. She said the firm is likely to do more recruiting inside-the-Beltway.
Prober, who while previously at Akin Gump helmed a pro bono project for Holocaust survivors, has experience representing clients on the congressional side of government investigations and probes by state attorneys’ general. The firm’s congressional investigations practice is a subset of its broader white-collar litigation group.
Others who will work with Prober and Ross at Akin Gump include counsel Megan Greer, senior counsel Constance O’Connor and senior counsel Stanley Brand, another former counsel with the U.S. House of Representatives who joined Akin Gump in July 2015 after decades running his own Washington, D.C.-based boutique. Steven Reich, another former deputy associate attorney general at the Justice Department who worked in Akin Gump’s litigation group, left the firm in early 2015 to become Deutsche Bank AG’s general counsel for the Americas.
Competing firms with similar practices include Wilmer, McDermott Will & Emery and King & Spalding.
While at Main Justice, Prober, 39, focused on topics investigated by both Congress and the executive branch. That type of dual-scrutiny is typical for federal oversight issues in the news, such as the congressional investigation into Mylan Inc. over its EpiPen drug pricing, Hillary Clinton’s email server and Congress’ inquiry into her response to a 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
“It is a process that looks similar to a judicial discovery process but on speed,” Prober said of congressional investigations. “Very often the timeframe for document production, witness interviews, depositions or hearings are quite accelerated, for a turnaround as quick as a week or two weeks.”
Prober’s re-hiring further marks a change that’s been unspooling across firms for some time—generational succession. Ross, a Reagan-era House general counsel who has led Akin Gump’s congressional investigations group since 1993, is 65 and thought the recent turnover in Congress made for a good time to share his position.
“It’s part of making sure we have the ability not to have our representation of clients be subject to the vagaries of who’s getting old and who’s not,” said Ross, although he’s not yet ready to retire. “I’ll think about the next Congress when that time comes around. I view this in 2-year increments.”
At this point, Ross and Akin Gump don’t view the Trump administration and Republican-held Congress that much differently than previous presidential transitions.
“There’s a level of concern about the lack of predictability at this stage,” Ross said of the firm’s clients. “While it’s probably heightened this year, I recall concern about the lack of predictability when President Obama’s administration started.”
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