Neil MacBride, the former U.S. attorney for Eastern District of Virginia, is joining Davis Polk & Wardwell's Washington office as a partner, the firm said today.
After four years overseeing high-profile investigations and prosecutions of government leakers, terrorists and corrupt public officials, MacBride will put that experience to use on the other side of the courtroom as a member of the firm's white-collar defense and government investigations practice.
"At sort of a macro level, I always regarded it as one of the world's great law firms," MacBride said in an interview today. "It's a place I've respected from afar." He said the firm partnership voted him in this week but he won't start until early next year.
MacBride said several firms courted him after he left public service in September—he declined to discuss which firms and what they offered. Davis Polk, he said, offered the culture, practice opportunities and compensation structure he wanted.
Davis Polk has a "collaborative and collegial culture and I believe that's a product of the fact they're one of the few lockstep firms out there," MacBride said, referring to a compensation model that bases pay on partner seniority. He declined to discuss what he'll be earning. MacBride also cited the firm's global client-base, commitment to expanding its presence in Washington and "premier" white collar criminal defense practice as draws.
MacBride said his practice will cover the range of government investigations clients may face "in the criminal, the civil, the regulatory, the administrative [and] the congressional sandboxes." He said he'll advise clients on dealing with risk and is ready to do battle in court if needed.
MacBride came to the U.S. attorney's office in 2009 from Main Justice, where he was associate deputy attorney general. He previously worked on the Senate Judiciary Committee as chief counsel and staff director for Vice President Joseph Biden, then a senator, and served as a line prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office for the District of Columbia.
The Eastern District of Virginia sees an unusual number of national security-related cases, given that it's home to the Pentagon, Central Intelligence Agency and a number of military installations. As U.S. attorney, MacBride oversaw the grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks and the leak prosecutions of former CIA officials John Kiriakou and Jeffrey Sterling.
MacBride declined to discuss the WikiLeaks case and the Sterling case, in which prosecutors are fighting to compel a New York Times reporter to testify. He broadly defended the federal government's pursuit of leakers, though, citing the Kiriakou prosecution as an example.
"When you talk to people in the intelligence community, they would say the most damaging form of leaks are those that involve revealing a covert agent's identification or revealing a classified program, and that particular case involved both," he said.
Given the tens of thousands of investigations the Justice Department undertakes each year, he said, the leak prosecutions were "really a very modest and targeted effort by the Justice Department to go after the most serious alleged leaks."
When asked about the cases he was most proud of, MacBride demurred, saying it would be like choosing a favorite child. However, he said he was especially proud of the work his office did going after sex traffickers, saying his office charged more cases in the past two years than any other U.S. attorney's office nationwide.
He also pointed to his office's success prosecuting accused terrorist actors and going after financial fraud.
Until he starts at the firm next year, MacBride said he's learning to cook, cycling and "catching up on four years' worth of back issues of The New Yorker."
The White House has yet to announce its pick to fill MacBride's position. Dana Boente, the former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, is serving as the office's acting U.S. attorney.
Photo courtesy of Davis Polk & Wardwell.