The 2009 Attorneys Who Matter represent the best and brightest in the legal field. The list consists of attorneys in all areas of practice, from federal agencies to leading in-house counsel to the top ethics and compliance officers of major companies. The attorneys have all risen to the top from a combination of their expertise, peer or client endorsements and high-profile cases (as well as the number of those cases successfully litigated). They are also the attorneys with the best public service, legal community engagement and academic involvement. It doesn’t hurt that they all have received plenty of awards and recognition, too.
The in-house counsel and ethics and compliance officers listed on Ethisphere’s 2009 Attorneys Who Matter all help lead their companies to the top of the ethics and compliance world. Many have ensured that their companies were recognized as Ethisphere’s 2009 World’s Most Ethical Companies. The outside counsel on the list are those who are best prepared to handle any issue arising around their particular specialty or subject matter expertise, and are the individuals that you are best off calling when seeking advice in a particular subject matter.
Below you’ll find the list of 2009’s Attorneys Who Matter, along with the methodology for selecting the top attorneys as well as exclusive Q&A’s with a select group of those that made the list.
The winning attorneys are broken up into the following 15 categories:
Hall of Fame
The best of the best in corporate compliance, this category lists the attorneys that scored the highest in each of the nine criteria used in compiling the list (see Criteria, below). These attorneys have had long, successful careers in a number of different positions (government/in-house/compliance) and specialties.
Just below Hall of Fame, this category lists attorneys that have a wide range of experience and hold high scores in the majority of the nine criteria and are the leaders in the outside counsel legal community in assisting corporations in effectively handling corporate compliance issues.
Up and Comers /Rising Stars
This category lists the best and brightest in “up and coming” attorneys, generally younger than those who appear in the Hall of Fame and Top Gun categories. These rising stars have already firmly established themselves in the world of corporate compliance.
From the Department of Justice/United States Attorneys Office, to TARP, to the White House, this category lists the attorneys working in the U.S. federal government that are having the biggest impact on corporate compliance.
Top General Counsel
The top attorneys holding spots at the General Counsel (or equivalent) position within leading global companies that have successful lead their organizations in an ethical and compliant manner and/or responded successfully to a challenging legal/regulatory environment at their companies.
Top Ethics and Compliance Officers
Leading in-house Ethics and Compliance officers within global companies. These attorneys are using their positions to advance the cause of ethics and corporate compliance both inside and outside of their organizations.
The remaining attorneys are divided into the following specialty categories within the field of corporate compliance:
- Trade/Export Compliance
- Government Contracting
- Labor & Employment
- Data Privacy/Security
The following nine criteria were used in determining the list of winning attorneys:
- Recognized expertise
- Peer/client endorsements
- High-profile litigation
- Number of cases won
- High-profile clients
- Public service
- Legal community engagement
- Academic involvement
- Other awards and recognitions
Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Chief Administrative Officer, Qwest – Top General Counsel
When asked how he decided to choose his field of work, Baer’s response was simple: “I wanted to be a cop, but my mother thought being a lawyer was safer.” Although indeed the less dangerous occupation of the two, Baer’s profession as an attorney has certainly not been any less challenging after serving as a federal prosecutor and navigating Qwest through significant government investigations. Baer believes the biggest challenge facing ethics and compliance is the need to be “ever vigilant and relentlessly focused on making sure your employees are always trying to do the right thing.” The advice he has for other companies with regard to maintaining a healthy corporate compliance program? Instituting a sound tone at the top and constantly inculcating that tone “through the rest of your company.”
Vice President, Corporate Compliance, Fluor Corporation – Top Compliance Officers
Hallgren joined Fluor in 2002, shortly after the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was enacted. She says she ended up in the area of ethics and compliance as a result of Fluor’s CEO and CFO recognizing “my project management skills, my ability to collaborate with others and willingness to stand up for what I believe is the right thing.” Times have certainly changed in the field of ethics and compliance since Hallgren joined Fluor, however. One of the biggest changes she has seen is “a general recognition that behaving ethically is good for business.” In fact, Fluor “recently conducted a client survey and ‘ethical’ was one of the adjectives most frequently used to describe Fluor. Having a stellar reputation simply leads to clients awarding us more work.” According to Hallgren, “It’s definitely a good investment” to focus on ethics and compliance. Hallgren’s thoughts on what the future holds in the field of ethics and compliance? “I anticipate developments with compliance and ethics becoming a more integral part of sustainability and corporate social responsibility initiatives and reporting. Ethical behavior is essential to your interactions with your clients, employees, contractors and other stakeholders of your business.”
Covington & Burling – Top Guns
Vinegrad, who majored in accounting and planned on being a tax lawyer early on, learned after only a few summers on the job at tax law firms that he would be taking a different career path. When we asked him what keeps him up at night in his field, he responded, “I sleep pretty well… But when I’m up thinking about work, I often ask myself, ‘Am I doing everything I can to help my clients?’” Part of doing everything you can for a client includes talking to them straight. “My biggest lesson, which I learned from a former boss and mentor,” says Vinegrad “is you have to tell clients what they need to know, and not just what you think they want to hear. Clients may not like it, but they’ll definitely respect you more for it.” What does Vinegrad expect to be the biggest challenge in the ethics and compliance arena, companies will be forced to “keep up in an increasingly regulated world, with increasingly aggressive regulators.” As such, the advice that Vinegrad is giving his corporate clients is “an ounce of prevention and a positive approach to compliance” is imperative. “It’s also about teaching people how compliance is ultimately the more profitable approach (as well as the right thing to do) in the long run.
Thomas F. O’Neil III
Vice Chairman, WellCare Health Plans – Top General Counsel
O’Neil has had a prolific career, including a clerkship to a U.S. District Judge in Baltimore, four years “in the trenches” at the U.S. Attorneys’ Office in Baltimore, in-house counsel for MCI, developing the Government Affairs and Government Controversies practices at DLA Piper, and most recently working to transform the compliance culture at WellCare. As part of those efforts, he acknowledges that “every day, the individual and collective actions of all personnel define a company’s brand in the marketplace, and its reputation with legislators, regulators and enforcement officials, and equally important, with customers or clients and vendors.” He goes on to note that “every employee must care. If everyone is not committed to the keystone principles of rigorous self-policing, responsible self-reporting and transparency with regulators, directors and shareholders, the compliance program will be doomed from the outset.” After all, “the confidence and trust of the regulators is a precious asset that, once lost, must be restored forthwith; that often is easier said than done.”
Partner, Hogan & Hartson – Rising Stars
Altman has two significant pieces of advice for other attorneys. First, on the substantive front, Altman says lawyers will find that their clients are always going to be asking for advice on whether they can do something they want, especially in compliance related areas. “It’s always easier to say ‘no,’ but that doesn’t make it right,” says Altman. “You need to make sure the client recognizes that you are looking for reasons to let them make the moves they want, not excuses as to why they can not.” The second piece of advice is more personal. “Maintain a life outside work,” says Altman. “Whether it’s family or a passion for some hobby, you need something to make you a complete person.”
Fish & Richardson P.C. – Rising Stars
“The legal industry is currently undergoing significant change,” says Levine. “One important lesson for me that may endure, however, is to keep the pressure to develop a specialty in perspective. Our industry tends to reward those who specialize. But opportunities to help clients in unanticipated ways can come from maintaining a broad range of experience.” Levine points to a period in his career when he lent his hand in pro bono litigation projects for a non-profit group. Because of that, he says, he “gained experience in all kinds of legal matters transactional, regulatory, tax and employment.” By working outside his normal specialty, Levine had built a foundation for later in his career. “That experience gave me an insight into representing companies as a litigator and counselor going forward that I otherwise would not have gained if I had too closely focused on just being a securities litigator or antitrust lawyer.”
Partner, Hogan & Hartson – Environmental Specialty
Reisch, who first joined Hogan & Hartson as a summer associate in Washington D.C., says that the best way to maintain a healthy corporate compliance program is to incorporate compliance into everyone’s job. “It’s just not possible for compliance personnel to be everywhere and know everything that happens,” Reisch says. “And by the time they do, it’s too late. Production staff needs to know enough about permit requirements and environmental laws that they can spot issues before they arise or at least as soon as possible after they arise.”
Specifically, Reisch cautions that the U.S. could see a significant increase in environmental law enforcement under the Obama administration. “The President’s budget contains a large increase in funding for EPA, and we are already seeing a much more aggressive attitude towards enforcement,” says Reisch. He says companies need to expect a range of new requirements around climate change, whether that comes through legislation or regulation.