As Tong, who narrowly beat out Republican challenger Susan Hatfield last week to become only the nation’s second Asian-American attorney general, gets ready to attend two attorneys general conferences, Birch is working the phones and preparing to form a six-member transition committee. That committee, which will be composed of lawyers from throughout the state, should be in place this week, the 60-year-old Birch told the Connecticut Law Tribune Monday.
Birch, who previously owned a bank in San Francisco and a waste and recycling company outside of Boston, was in private practice and worked as an attorney for Cummings & Lockwood before joining Finn Dixon as of counsel in 2001. Tong joined the firm soon after Birch. Birch works in the area of business transactions with a concentration on corporate financing transactions and mergers and acquisitions.
Birch said the transition team will be working nonstop straight up until Inauguration Day Jan. 9, with the first priority being to get the leadership team in place. While the Attorney General’s Office has more than 200 attorneys, most are civil servants. Birch said about 20 members of the leadership team within the office will, per protocol, reapply for their jobs. Birch said he will take part in most, if not all, of the interviews for those applying for jobs and Tong will take part in some of the interviews.
“We are going to conduct an open and transparent process for all leadership positions within the office,” Birch said. “We will accept both outside resumes and in-house resumes. This is being rolled out now.” The positions in question, Birch said, include assistant attorney generals and associate attorney generals. There are also nonattorney posts in the mix, but Birch said, “we are not focused on those now.”
Birch and Tong met last week with outgoing Democratic Attorney General George Jepsen and Deputy Attorney General Perry Zinn-Rowthorn to discuss how best to have a smooth transition, Birch said.
“George and William go way back,” Birch said of the outgoing and incoming attorneys general. “We are going to understand what the priorities have been under the current administration and make sure William understands those priorities and he will also outline his priorities so that the department can be in sync by the time of the inauguration.”
Tong’s transition team also has reached out to Democratic Gov.-elect Ned Lamont’s transition team, Birch said. In addition, he said, “I’m sure William will be meeting with his former legislative counterparts since he spent so much time in the Legislature and the last few years on [the] Judiciary [Committee].”
Tong will also be busy familiarizing himself with the workings of attorney general’s offices in other states. Tong will attend the National Association of Attorneys General later this month in South Carolina. In addition, Birch said, Tong will also take part in the Democratic Attorney General Association next month in Washington, D.C.
Birch received his law degree from Boston University School of Law in 1983, the same year he was admitted to the Connecticut Bar.