Financial disclosure reports are fairly routine. A lawyer leaving private practice reveals annual compensation, a list of clients who received legal services, and maybe some investments.
Courtney Elwood, a former partner at Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick who’s now general counsel to the CIA, reported the $2.9 million in income she received last year up to her appointment. She disclosed clients—including the University of Michigan and National Education Association. And, yes, investments.
But that’s not all. Elwood, a Kellogg Hansen lawyer since 2007, went an extra mile to report something else that others who’ve made the move from law firm to government service might overlook, or perhaps not need to disclose: office furniture.
Elwood wrote: “In accordance with standard firm practice, the firm paid for some of my office furniture in late 2007, early 2008. Following my withdrawal from the firm, I will retain some of that office furniture, which has now fully depreciated. This is consistent with the practice for other departing partners who have fully depreciated furniture.”
On a stifling July day as the nation’s capital simmered over the latest Russia-Trump campaign news, David Frederick, Elwood’s former colleague, ruminated on that furniture line in the financial disclosure report.
“Courtney had such amazing style that no other partner could possibly have used her furniture in their office,” Frederick said. “It is true, too. She had yellow walls and drapes, some very nice sitting chairs and, I think, a small couch.”
As for Frederick’s own office, the veteran Supreme Court advocate confessed: “I have a classic government-issue table and old leather chairs with brass things that have been there through the 40s.”
Kellogg Hansen, Frederick said, is a “very utilitarian kind of place.” Firm partners who want to decorate their offices can do it and ultimately they pay for it as part of their capital contribution to the firm, he explained.
“I’ve got my amount in the firm and I wanted an extra screen for my computer so that becomes part of what I pay for,” he said.
No old tales about departing partners and missing furniture are kicking around the halls of Kellogg Hansen, Frederick assured. “Most people’s furniture is so pedestrian that no one would want to steal it,” he said. Elwood, he added, “had the most stylish office in the firm.”
That’s not to ignore Elwood’s legal acumen. Elwood is a Yale Law School graduate and former clerk to the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist. When President Donald Trump nominated Elwood to be the CIA’s top lawyer, Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer’s John Bellinger III, who was legal adviser to the U.S. State Department in 2005-09, wrote on the Lawfare blog: “Courtney is a very careful lawyer with outstanding judgment. She was never ideological or especially partisan in her views. She is tough-minded and independent. She will be able to say no when it is necessary to do so.”
David Kris, a former assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s National Security Division in the Obama administration, said: “I know her to be a first-class lawyer with tremendous acumen, judgment, and respect for the rule of law.”
Elwood won bipartisan Senate confirmation, 67-33, on June 6.
Elwood’s husband, John Elwood, a Vinson & Elkins appellate partner, said many firms make partners buy their own furniture when they become a partner. “Unless there happens to be someone looking to buy furniture just as you’re about to depart, you have to take the furniture with you,” he said.
Elwood said he uses a standing desk, which he insisted on ever since his days at the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. “I discovered that it was easier to stay awake reading the CFR when standing up, and it’s healthier to stand anyway,” he said.
And what about that mega source of Trump administration lawyer-appointees—Jones Day? Is there now a firmwide furniture shortage?
That firm’s longtime Supreme Court advocate, Michael Carvin, said: “After careful research, all I can tell you is there are plenty of desks and sofas throughout Jones Day. Of course, my departing partners couldn’t move their furniture to DOJ or the White House. Have no idea if they stored it or left it here. I hope this helps you get to the bottom of this important issue.”
Frederick said Kellogg Hansen will miss Elwood, and he wished her the best at the CIA. “She has a very hard and important job and we’re all rooting for her,” he said. “My only regret is I couldn’t get through security to see her new office.”