Counsel, Faegre Baker Daniels, Washington DC

My father is a law professor, US marine and boxing coach, so I grew up in an environment that stressed individual responsibility, rational and decisive thinking, and good judgement. It was the perfect law and order atmosphere for a career in compliance, and criminal and national security law.

Notre Dame Law School does a fantastic job teaching students the fundamentals of the law, and how to think and reason through a problem. But the real training has occurred as my career took turns I never anticipated. In service in all three branches of the US government and in the private sector, I have taken on new challenges and learned new areas of the law. Serving as a federal prosecutor handling narcotics, violent crime and child pornography cases is different from being a congressional intelligence committee counsel and drafting cybersecurity and intelligence collection legislation.

Overseeing national security undercover operations for the FBI is different from providing compliance, data security and privacy advice to corporate clients. But each new experience has built upon the earlier – providing a continual training ground and a solid foundation for advising clients today. As an adjunct law professor at Notre Dame teaching a course on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, I now have the opportunity to give my own students a similar foundation.

As a federal prosecutor and as a national security lawyer at the FBI, it was generally recognised that performing the mission took priority over politics. Most of the time, I didn’t even know whether a colleague was a Republican or a Democrat; it just didn’t matter as long as everyone was professional, ethical and focused on the investigation or operation.

Serving as a congressional lawyer in a naturally political atmosphere was definitely a change. Those moments when politics alone dictated the outcome in matters critical to our national security were among the most challenging and disappointing.

There are so many more laws and regulations today that impact on ordinary business activities, international transactions and how we live our daily lives. What may initially seem like a simple issue can be contingent on a complicated web of authorities or legal or policy interpretations, such as with national security, privacy law or the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It works to the client’s benefit to have a lawyer who is well-versed in the specific laws that may be applicable.  

As a federal prosecutor, I was always very cognisant that decisions I made on a daily basis could affect one person’s freedom or another’s justice. Similarly, as a congressional counsel, I understood the ramifications of how laws are written and how government functions. If lawyers approach professional decisions with similar recognition that their actions can profoundly impact on people’s lives, they will be better attorneys and their clients will be much better served.