The rhythms of university life beckoned to a pair of Big Law veterans on either coast this summer, with partners departing Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher for academic positions.
“I was interested in returning to some form of public service,” said David Turetsky, who had been co-head of the cybersecurity, privacy and data practice at Akin Gump in Washington, D.C. He left the firm to start next month as a visiting assistant professor for emergency preparedness at the State University of New York at Albany.
Like many other top lawyers in Washington, Turetsky had imagined a potential role in a Hillary Clinton administration following last year’s election. When Donald Trump’s victory intervened, he eyed an exit from the Capitol instead. “We have been in Washington the last 24 years, and it was just in terms of where our lives are now, a feeling that this wasn’t a good time to have a ringside seat in that city,” Turetsky said.
The move to Albany also made sense for his family, Turetsky said.
Thomas McHenry had logged 20 years in the Los Angeles office of Gibson Dunn before leaving this month to start as president and dean of Vermont Law School. There, in addition to his administrative duties, he’ll also teach a course on the history of environmental law.
The school is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as No. 1 for environmental law.
McHenry practiced general environmental law at Gibson Dunn, with an emphasis on air quality, climate change, hazardous waste, environmental diligence, land use and energy issues. A New York University School of Law-trained lawyer, he represented clients before regulators, including the California and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“The job came out of the blue,” McHenry said, although he had taught at the school during its summer programs. He said he “loves” his law firm but was ready for a new challenge. “I wanted to keep working,” he said, noting that, at 62, he had reached an age when many partners are expected to slow down.
He said he recognizes that Vermont students have historically sought government and public interest jobs—in comparison to the corporate client matters he handled at his firm. But he said there’s plenty of crossover between those practices. “The ol’ black and white hat doesn’t fit,” he said. “I always thought I wore a white hat.”