Miranda Kane, Munger Tolles & Olson of counsel (Jason Doiy / The Recorder)
Miranda Kane joined Munger Tolles & Olson in January after two and a half years in the U.S. attorney’s office. As criminal division chief, she supervised more than 80 line prosecutors. On her return to the law firm fold, Kane is carving out a practice in white-collar defense—and she’s eager to get back in front of a jury.
Q: As you return to private practice, what have you gained from your time as criminal division chief?
A: I have a lot of familiarity with the most recent law enforcement tools, law enforcement’s priorities and the reach of the Justice Department. In a lot of ways the technological advancements have shrunk the universe a little bit. I’m conscious of that in advising clients now—the relationships between the Securities and Exchange Commission and the DOJ, government contractors and the DOJ. You need to know that something that starts out looking one way could expand to be something much bigger.
Q: In what other ways is technology affecting the white-collar practice?
A: Email has been the downfall of so many people and companies. People don’t think the same way about pushing a button as they did about signing their name. I know to tell my clients now that that is the first place that the government is going to look for information. It’s just a server full of admissions.
Q: What other advice are you offering your clients in the Valley?
A: It’s getting harder and harder to resolve cases just in terms of a corporate resolution. That’s something that the criminal division has really been focusing on. They want to hold individuals accountable. If that’s the right thing to do, they do not want to let people off the hook in exchange for a significant fine. That’s important for directors and board members to be sensitive to.
Q: What’s your proudest accomplishment?
A: There are still times when you go into a setting and there aren’t as many women around the table as you hoped there would be. Melinda [Haag, U.S. attorney for Northern District of California] and I felt this all the time when we were the figureheads in the [U.S. attorney's office]. I’ve never let people’s expectations of me as a female attorney stop me from being the attorney that I wanted to be. I had all my children when I was an attorney. I just don’t feel like that was an impediment at all to my success. It was always fun to exceed people’s expectations.
Q: Best career advice you ever got?
A: You really have to find your own voice as a lawyer. If you’re adopting a voice that’s not your own, that is pretty obvious to the audience. And especially in a jury trial, I don’t think that flies.
Q: After serving in a management role at the U.S. attorney’s office, are you excited to start trying cases again?
A: Absolutely. In a lot of ways, being in that role as a manager was incredibly important, and I really enjoyed working closely with [Melinda] to set policy and really set a tone for the U.S. attorney’s office. But you look around, and you see who is really implementing that policy. I credit the group of [assistant U.S. attorneys] that I was working with with inspiring me to go back and have a chance to be on the front lines again.
Q: What would you do if you weren’t doing this?
A: Way back when, I thought I wanted to be a journalist. I also like to think about running a book store. I still read books in paper as opposed to on an iPad, and it always seemed like that would be such a great thing, to surround yourself with books.
Q: Guilty pleasure?
A: Last night, my daughter told me that “The Mindy Project” was back on. I had a huge smile on my face.
Q: One piece of advice for new lawyers?
A: It’s so easy when you’re becoming a lawyer to just have a list of the things you want to do. The field is so mission-driven. It’s so important at some point to step back and make sure you’re embracing the moment and the practice. I have always enjoyed the practice of law. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be a common feeling among all of my peers.