Boies, Schiller & Flexner's Karen Dunn
Boies, Schiller & Flexner’s Karen Dunn (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi / NLJ)

Karen Dunn, a former associate White House counsel, last week took her first jump into private practice, joining Boies, Schiller & Flexner as a partner in the firm’s newly established crisis management and government response team.

“I like the idea of helping people who have big problems, figuring out how to confront them,” Dunn, 38, said in an interview. “It’s hard to imagine any massive enterprise-threatening problem that doesn’t have a Washington, D.C., component to it.”

Previously, Dunn prepared two of the highest ranking government leaders for nationally televised hot seats.

Dunn worked on the team that prepped President Barack Obama for debates in 2012, and she assisted Sonia Sotomayor prepare for her U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee. Dunn also worked on Capitol Hill as communications director and adviser to then-Sen. Hillary Clinton and in the courts as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia.

That experience in three branches of government, firm managing partner Jonathan Schiller said, is an asset for a practice built around trial lawyers. Schiller notes the firm is tackling more regulatory issues, especially in matters that involve the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“I don’t think we’re trailblazing,” Schiller said. “I think good Washington lawyers have that broad range. That’s what distinguishes a Washington lawyer from a Wall Street lawyer.”

Dunn said she looked at a number of firms before agreeing to Boies Schiller. The gig lands her in an office next to former White House colleague Michael Gottlieb, who joined the firm in 2013. Other former government lawyers at the firm include Rich Feinstein, who returned to Boies Schiller after running the Bureau of Competition at the FTC; Scott Wilson, who rejoined the firm after a stint as a senior adviser to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman; and Heather King, who advised Sen. Clinton.

Schiller explained his business thinking on attracting lawyers from the government, even those who bring relatively small or no books of business: “It’s not about having clients. It’s about being able to provide clients with the expertise they want, and including fresh faces that are familiar with government and the Hill and are current with policy.”

It’s an approach, he said, that focuses on growing clients in an entrepreneurial, let’s-find-them way rather than attracting lawyers laterally along with their clients.

Boies Schiller counts more than 250 lawyers among its 13 offices. This week, firm chairman David Boies, alongside Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s Theodore Olson, won the argument in a federal district court in Virginia to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Contact Katelyn Polantz at kpolantz@alm.com. On Twitter: @kpolantz.