Robert Bennett, known for his open approach in dealing with the Washington press corps, isn’t talking about his upcoming departure from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
In an interview this afternoon, the prominent D.C. lawyer declined to comment on his move to Hogan & Hartson, announced today. Bennett, who once served as President Bill Clinton’s personal attorney, is joining Hogan after 20 years at Skadden, and he’s taking with him longtime Skadden partner Carl Rauh.
When asked the reason for their departures, Bennett demurred. “I don’t want to get into all that. You know, change is good. That’s all I’ll say about that,” he said. Pressed for details, he declined to offer any.
That answer contrasts with the advice Bennett gave in his 2008 memoir, In the Ring: The Trials of a Washington Lawyer. When bad news hits, he wrote, “you get out all the facts, both good and bad, immediately.”
Several current and former Skadden lawyers said in separate interviews today that the firm has a policy requiring partners to retire at age 70. Some, including name partner Joseph Flom, are exempt from the policy, and Bennett, who is 70, said that he was, too. Asked whether the policy was a factor in his decision to leave, Bennett said: “I was not required to leave, and they offered me a handsome package to stay.”
Bennett was more open in talking about his new firm — which is also his old firm, because he worked as an associate at Hogan in the early 1970s after serving as a federal prosecutor.
“Hogan is where I started in private practice, and I have lots of friends there, and it is one of the world’s best firms,” Bennett said. “They offered me a wonderful, challenging opportunity, and I decided to take them up on it. My juices are overflowing.”
When he began negotiations with Hogan, he said he “became very enthusiastic” and “decided that change would suit me well at this point.”
Bennett said he plans to work with Skadden lawyers on many ongoing cases. He plans to take “several major cases” with him. “The principal thing is you don’t want to disrupt the client’s interest,” he said.
Updated at 5:44 p.m.