Legendary Washington defense lawyer Robert Bennett is joining Hogan & Hartson, leaving the D.C. office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom where he spent two decades representing a president, members of Congress, Cabinet secretaries and some of the nation’s largest corporations.
Carl Rauh, another prominent defense lawyer who often works with Bennett, is going with him. The two firms confirmed the moves this afternoon.
In a statement released by Hogan, Bennett called the firm “one of the few international law firms with an established history in D.C. and impressive regulatory capabilities.” He added, “We look forward to working with our new colleagues, skilled litigators with years of high-level experience in this area, who have created a global and robust white collar practice.”
Clifford Naeve, managing partner of Skadden’s D.C. Office, declined in an interview to comment on the reasons behind the departures. Asked whether they came as a surprise, Naeve said they did. He later called back, saying that the firm was not surprised because it had known for weeks that Bennett and Rauh were talking with other firms.
Naeve said Skadden tried to persuade them not to leave.
“We had been talking to Bob and Carl about their staying with the firm and had hoped that they would stay with us, but I think they concluded they wanted to go off in a different direction, and that’s their decision,” Naeve said in the first interview. “They’ve done a tremendous job during the 20 years they’ve been here. They’ve put in place an impressive litigation team.”
None of the other members of Skadden’s D.C. litigation group announced plans to leave today.
Neither Bennett nor Rauh was immediately available for comment. They have been co-leaders of Skadden’s international government-enforcement litigation group and the criminal and civil litigation practice. Bennett will now be co-head of Hogan’s white collar and investigations practice, along with longtime Hogan partner Ty Cobb.
Naeve said the firm’s litigation group heard the news on Monday. Rauh spoke to the firm’s associates this morning, he said. The news was first reported on the blog Above the Law.
Bennett is known for his long list of high-profile clients, including President Bill Clinton, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), New York Times reporter Judith Miller, and former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz. He’s also known for his experience managing media-saturated legal crises — including representing clients in the BCCI and Iran-Contra scandals — and the reputation led supporters of Duke University’s lacrosse team to hire Bennett after the players were wrongly accused of rape.
Bennett and Rauh have also taken on big local roles. Rauh is a former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, and Bennett agreed in July to investigate whether D.C. Council member Marion Barry had violated ethics rules.
“I have reached a point in my practice where I can do the things I want to do,” Bennett said at the time.
The two lawyers joined Skadden in 1990, leaving Dunnells, Duvall, Bennett & Porter, which no longer exists. Bennett worked at Hogan earlier in his career, and the firm’s leaders are welcoming his return.
“Bob and Carl’s pre-eminent practice in the white collar and investigations arena make them natural fits with our existing leaders in this group,” said J. Warren Gorrell Jr., Hogan’s chairman, in a statement. “With all of the changes in the regulatory and legislative environment, we are handling a rapidly expanding number of government investigations of companies in the United States and overseas.”
Posted at 12:33 p.m. Updated at 3:47 p.m. Reporters Jeff Jeffrey and Jordan Weissmann contributed to this report.