Former White House Counsel Gregory Craig told The National Law Journal today that when he set out to pick a law firm after a year in the White House, it was all about "global reach."
Craig, who will be leading the newly formed global policy and litigation strategy practice group in the Washington office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, said he opted to join Skadden--over returning to his longtime firm Williams & Connolly--because he was looking for a firm with more international reach. Craig said he had spent the last few weeks talking to both Williams & Connolly and Skadden, but decided that Skadden offered a broader range of practices and more international offices, which was a better fit for his new practice.
“Williams & Connolly has been my professional home for the past 30 years,” Craig said. “But its focus is narrower than Skadden’s, which has enormous scope in terms of both clients and in the expertise of the lawyers.”
Craig said a lot of the details about his new practice group haven’t been worked out yet. Things such as the size of the group and the role the practice will play at the firm are still undecided, Craig said. But the practice’s work will be far reaching.
Craig described the practice as a combination of litigation, global policy, strategic planning, crisis management, and corporate work--all with a Washington focus. “It’s a different approach to practicing law,” he said. “It is going to be a large playground to play in.”
Craig is not currently bringing anyone over from Williams & Connolly, but he isn’t ruling it out either. “We’re going to be looking for uniquely qualified people who are well prepared to deal with a multiplicity of practice areas. We’re going to be looking everywhere for talent.”
He said his role at Skadden will be that of an adviser, but he stressed that he will still maintain a hands-on approach to client matters. “Being simply an adviser is not Greg Craig,” he said. “Litigation has always been a big part of my practice, and I’m not setting that aside. If I have to go to court for a client, I’m happy to go to court.”
Of his time in the White House, Craig said he “couldn’t be prouder,” but after a year it was time for him to return to private practice. Despite months of rumors that he was being forced out over the role he played in the Obama administration’s effort to close down the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, Craig said he was not pressured to leave. “I talked to the president on numerous occasions and told him that a year in the White House was about all I could do. He understood that and was fine with it. I was not pressured to leave at all.”
Craig said that while he was White House counsel as well as in the months before Barack Obama was inaugurated, his office was involved in drafting a range of executive orders that he said will have “lasting effects to the benefit of the country.”
“Our office had a terrific record and had an enormous contribution to the president’s first year, not just on national security and Guantanamo but on energy and the environment. I’m very proud of our record,” Craig said.
Craig also oversaw the vetting process for judicial nominations, including 12 nominees to the U.S. courts of appeals and Justice Sonia Sotomayor. “The nominees to the court of appeals are an incredibly diverse group of jurists,” Craig said. “And Justice Sotomayor is not only a remarkably experienced jurist, she’s a wonderful person, so her confirmation is one of the highlights of my time in the White House.”
Nonetheless, Craig said, he’s looking forward to getting back to private practice. Since leaving the White House counsel’s office on Jan. 3, he has been skiing and spending time with his family. “As the president knows, time in the White House is incredibly hard on a family, so I’m looking forward to getting back to work as a lawyer in Washington,” Craig said.