Fred Fielding says that once he narrowed down his choices, deciding which law firm to join was a tough call, but one that had to be made: “I’ve never been out of work this long in my life,” he says, laughing. “For the first time in my life since law school, I was waking up not thinking about other people’s problems.” (Since leaving the Bush administration in January, Fielding has spent much of his time in Florida.)
In the end, Fielding says he chose Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, largely because of its nationwide and international presence. “It’s broader. This is an international firm,” he says. “I just really felt it was the best fit for me.”
Fielding also says he had no ambitions to get back into management. He was a name partner at Wiley Rein, where he practiced before becoming White House counsel in 2007.
Fielding and Wiley Rein’s Richard Wiley are longtime friends, and Wiley confirms that he did extend “a very responsible offer” to Fielding. Though Fielding says turning it down was “really difficult,” he says he and Wiley “talked about it, and we said, whatever the decision is, we’re not going to let it affect our friendship.”
In fiscal year 2008, Morgan, Lewis had profits per partner of $1.45 million, and WileyRein had profits per partner of $950,000, according to data collected by The American Lawyer.
Fielding also has a history at Morgan, Lewis. He began his law career as a summer associate there in 1963 and practiced off and on at the firm until 1981. His time there was interrupted by a two-year absence to serve in the Army and a stint in the Nixon White House. He left when he joined the Reagan administration.
After leaving the Nixon administration, Fielding helped build Morgan, Lewis’ litigation practice. He notes that some of the lawyers still practicing at the firm are attorneys who he recruited.
Fielding starts as a partner in the litigation practice April 15.