For nearly two decades, Scott Blake Harris’ career had been on a straight trajectory. From Harvard Law School he landed a coveted clerkship with Gerhard Gesell, the federal judge who presided over key cases from Watergate to the release of the Pentagon Papers. After that, Harris moved on to Williams & Connolly, one of Washington’s most storied firms, where he spent 16 years.
Then in 1993, he jumped into government work. “I was happy and had really great work,” said Harris, 61, of Williams & Connolly. “When the time actually came, I almost made the decision not to leave.”
In the Clinton administration, he worked first at the Commerce Department and then became head of the International Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission, where he hired William Wiltshire and Mark Grannis away from his old firm.
In 1998, the trio jumped to Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s communications group, but client conflicts soon pushed them out on their own. Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis (now Wiltshire & Grannis) flourished as a telecom and litigation boutique that won plaudits for sharing profits with staff, dropping expenses from client invoices and allowing lawyers to bill 1,500 hours per year, about 25 percent less than top corporate firms.
Still, Harris had kept strong connections to the Democratic Party — his 14-year-old son was an intern for then-Senator Barack Obama, and Harris bundled more than $500,000 in contributions for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. In 2009, despite a background in telecom, he was appointed general counsel of the Department of Energy, where he nonetheless was lauded for his efforts to enforce energy efficiency standards and make the department more transparent.
Last year, he left to join Neustar, a Virginia-based firm that manages telephone numbering and was formerly the communications unit of Lockheed Martin.
It hasn’t been the career he envisioned as a young lawyer, but Harris has no regrets about jumping from Williams & Connolly. “Those are the opportunities that arose and it led me to a more diverse and interesting career than even the one that I anticipated,” Harris said.