Norman Bay and Priya Aiyar of Willkie Farr & Gallagher. (Courtesy photo)
Willkie Farr & Gallagher staffed up its Washington, D.C., office with two high-ranking federal government lawyers this week.
Norman Bay, the former U.S. attorney for New Mexico and most recently chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and Priya Aiyar, previously the Treasury Department’s acting general counsel, joined Willkie as partners Tuesday. Bay will lead the firm’s energy regulatory and enforcement group, the firm said.
While their practices are unrelated, the two new partners help to build out the elite New York firm’s regulatory capabilities in Washington.
“The reality is that, when administrations turn over, there are always interesting people to talk to,” said Matt Feldman, one of Willkie’s co-chairs who, though he’s based in New York, runs the Washington office. “When Priya’s and Norman’s resumes came across my desk—meeting them was better—their resumes gave me a reason to go out and talk to them.”
Bay has spent nearly all his career in public service and academia. But this year, the “people, culture and platform” at Willkie drew him to the firm—”one of the best in America,” he said.
Energy has been a hot practice in Washington this year, as the industry waited for the Trump administration’s nominees to FERC to be confirmed so the board would reach a quorum. The administration secured two confirmations for four vacant seats on the agency board one month ago.
Willkie already had an energy transactional practice in place but began building out its regulatory offering in January, when it hired partners Paul Pantano and Athena Yvonne Eastwood from Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.
Other firms, including Reed Smith, which hired former FERC Commissioner Colette Honorable and another energy regulatory partner from Schiff Hardin in July, also have invested in the practice area.
“It’s one of the best times ever to be an energy lawyer, because of all this dramatic change,” Bay said.
After he served as a U.S. attorney from 2000 to 2001, Bay became a law professor and then enforcement director at FERC for five years. He took a seat on the commission in 2014. He expects his practice at Willkie to focus around energy work, which could include litigation and white collar defense as much as regulatory law.
Aiyar, who left Treasury after about three years, has more experience on the private firm side. She was a U.S. Supreme Court clerk to Justice Stephen Breyer following law school, then joined Washington litigation boutique Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick in 2003 and became a partner four years later.
Aiyar also spent time as a legal adviser to former Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski and advised the bipartisan commission assembled after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
“What Treasury does is incredibly large, and there’s going to be an enormous amount of change in the federal regulatory space,” she said.
Generally, Willkie has focused its Washington-based work related to the financial services industry on Justice Department, Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission matters. It has almost 100 lawyers in Washington, with a quarter of them equity partners.