President Barack Obama has a new personal lawyer to replace Robert Bauer, who began work as the new White House counsel this week.
Perkins Coie partner Judith Corley will represent Obama in his non-official capacity, both in personal matters and in anything having to do with his political organization, Obama for America. Previously, Bauer, who was chair of Perkins Coie's political law practice, represented Obama in personal matters.
Corley said it was logical to assume some of Bauer’s clients because the two have worked together in the firm’s Washington office since 1981, when Corley started at Perkins Coie as a law clerk. “I’ve worked with Bob for almost 30 years now,” she said. “It made sense for me to handle those issues in his absence.”
Marc Elias, another Perkins Coie partner, succeeded Bauer as chair of the firm’s political law practice, coordinating representation of a long list of clients that also includes the Democratic National Committee.
Despite the prestige of representing the president, Corley said there’s relatively little work to be done on personal matters. She will handle Obama’s required disclosure of personal finances, but she said there is no ongoing personal litigation and that most matters fall into the category of official business or campaign business. Litigation regarding Obama’s birth in Hawaii, for example, is considered a campaign issue.
“He doesn’t have a lot of personal legal issues, which is a good thing, I guess,” Corley said. “I hope it stays that way.”
Corley represented then-Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) when Gephardt ran for president in the 1988 and 2004 election cycles, and she took a leave of absence to work in Gephardt’s legislative office for a year after the 1994 elections. She has also represented then-House Speaker Thomas Foley (D-Wash.) and America Coming Together, a tax-exempt 527 group that opposed President George W. Bush’s re-election.
Emily’s List, which raises money for female candidates, is a current client. Most of the work related to Obama for America, Corley said, falls to her and to associate Rebecca Gordon.
Corley said she got her first job in campaign finance as a fluke. She majored in French at the University of Washington and moved to the D.C. area planning to work in diplomacy. Through a friend, she took a job with the public information office of the Federal Election Commission and worked there for six years before joining Perkins Coie.
She earned a law degree from George Washington University in 1985 and has been a partner since 1994.
An earlier version of this post gave the incorrect name for the president's political organization, which is Obama for America.