White-collar defense lawyer Barry Pollack confirmed Thursday that he—but not his 40-lawyer law firm—will be defending Julian Assange against U.S. computer hacking charges.
Pollack, a partner at Washington, D.C.’s Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber since last spring, is representing the detained Wikileaks founder through a solo shop, the Law Offices of Barry J. Pollack.
When Pollack joined Robbins Russell last March from Miller & Chevalier, he said he would be representing Assange through his own shop because his new partnership wasn’t willing to take the matter on “for a variety of client and other reasons.” Asked Thursday whether he still represented Assange independently and if he had any other solo clients, Pollack said in a short email that the original arrangement remained in place.
Ecuador on Thursday rescinded asylum for Assange, who had been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He was arrested by British authorities in connection with a newly unsealed U.S. charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. The U.S. government accuses Assange of conspiring with Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to share classified information.
Stephen Gillers, New York University School of Law professor, said Pollack’s representation of Assange though his own solo firm was “unusual but not improper.”
“Lawyers sometimes have affiliations with more than one law firm. Pollack is in his own firm and he is also in a partnership,” Gillers said in an email. “This is unusual, indeed rare, because each firm’s conflicts are then imputed to the other firm and may require either firm to turn away business because of the other firm’s clients. That prospect is unattractive. But sometimes the risk is low because of the distinct areas of practice.”
Robbins Russell had no immediate comment, referring questions to Pollack’s assistant.
Robbins Russell recently parted ways with one of its lawyers over a different representation: Former senior counsel Michael Bromwich’s 2018 exit from the firm was expedited due to his desire to represent Christine Blasey Ford, who accused then-U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. In a letter to the firm at the time, Bromwich said he was leaving because “objections have been raised within the partnership” to his representation of Ford, but Robbins Russell said Bromwich wasn’t forced out because of Ford specifically, but separated by mutual agreement “to ensure that his efforts would not be colored by or in conflict with” the firm’s appellate practice.
Bromwich has worked at his eponymous consulting firm, The Bromwich Group, since leaving Robbins Russell.
Pollack on Thursday issued a statement assailing the case against Assange. “While the indictment against Julian Assange disclosed today charges a conspiracy to commit computer crimes, the factual allegations against Mr. Assange boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identity of that source,” he said. “Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges.”