Throughout his career in public service and private practice, Earl Silbert has held fast to one goal: “To try to make improvements in the administration of justice,” he said.
Now a partner at DLA Piper, Silbert made his name as an assistant U.S. attorney, when he and two colleagues served as the first Watergate prosecutors.
The case, he said, was “the most exciting, fascinating, challenging” matter a lawyer could ask for. As it unfolded, Silbert said, “what struck me was the remarkable, unfortunate potential for an abuse of power,” he said.
“I was very upset and concerned that so many of those who participated in the Watergate cover-up were lawyers. How could that be?…They were overtaken by their access to power, and lost their ability to say no.”
Silbert went on to serve as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia from 1974 to 1979.
For years, some speculated that Silbert could have been the legendary “Deep Throat” — the source for Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein — a suggestion that Silbert seems to find appalling. “Anyone who knows me knows that was virtually impossible,” he said, adding that he does not believe prosecutors should talk to the media about their cases.
In private practice, his hallmark has been providing an honorable defense to clients accused of dishonorable deeds, representing Enron’s Kenneth Lay and Indonesian banking executive James Riady, among others. He also currently serves on the advisory boards of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and the District of Columbia Bar Foundation.
To many white-collar lawyers, Silbert is considered the dean of the bar.
As Richard Beizer, a partner at Crowell & Moring put it, he “remains a leader, passionate in the pursuit of justice, who inspires all with his integrity, brilliance and civility.”