Phillip Carter, who until recently was deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, has returned to McKenna, Long & Aldridge's Washington office as an associate. He starts work in the firm's government contracts practice on Tuesday.
For Carter, the move marks a return to the place where he began his legal career. He joined the firm as a summer associate in 2003 and was hired full-time in 2004. Since then he has taken two leaves of absence, including one in 2005 to deploy to Iraq with the Army's 101st Airborne Division as an adviser to the country's police force. He also took time off in 2008 to join then-Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign as a policy adviser and later as the national veterans director.
In April 2009, Carter was tapped to lead the Pentagon’s policy efforts regarding detainees. In that role, he was responsible for crafting policies that will allow prisoners held by the U.S. military in Afghanistan to challenge their indefinite detention under a new review system. He was also heavily involved in the administration's effort to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
Carter said in an interview today that he stepped down from that position in December after serving in it for only seven months for “personal reasons.” He declined to comment on the future of detainee policy as it moves forward.
Carter, who was named one of The National Law Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40” lawyers in 2009, said his time in government has given him an “inside appreciation” into how the Obama administration approaches questions of national security and into how the Pentagon operates, both of which, he said, will be a benefit to McKenna’s clients.
“For me, [rejoining McKenna] is a natural evolution of my career,” Carter said. “I’m excited to be returning to the firm where I started and where I know all of the people.”
Tom Abbott, who chairs McKenna’s 70-lawyer government contracts practice, said that Carter’s return to the firm will offer clients a “unique insight” into the issues facing contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“He is a full-service government contracts attorney, and we’re excited to have him picking up where he left off before his leave of absence,” Abbott said. “Only this time, he brings with him a great deal of experience working with this administration.”