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Lanny Davis, Partner, ''Legal Crisis Communications'' practice group, Orrick, Washington, DC

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					   LAWSTAR                                                                                                                    1. 800. 973.1177




                                Lanny Davis, Partner, “Legal Crisis Communica-
                                tions” practice group, Orrick, Washington, DC
                                [ by Regan Morris]
                                As a White House lawyer and spokesman during the Clinton years, Lanny Davis learned a thing or two
                                about managing political and legal crises. LawCrossing speaks with Davis about his career and the exper-
                                tise he calls “legal crisis communications.”




As Davis was special counsel to President            Monica Lewinsky,” said Davis, who resigned        and politics. Davis, who remains friends with
Clinton, his job entailed more public rela-          shortly before the Lewinsky scandal hit the       Bush, said he often jokes with the president
tions work than most attorneys face. During          papers, but frequently commented on the           that he only voted for him once—when Bush
various scandals, Davis handled both the             story. “And that was a private relationship       was elected president of their fraternity,
legal work and the flurry of questions from          issue that never should have made it into         Delta Kappa Epsilon.
the media. When he left the White House,             the public arena. An overzealous prosecutor
Davis realized his unique experience could be        and an over-partisan movement criminal-           “We were in the same fraternity, and we
useful to private sector individuals swept up        ized something that never should have been        partied pretty seriously together,” Davis said
in scandals.                                         a public issue. If you look at every other        of President Bush, who appointed Davis to
                                                     allegation against President Clinton starting     serve on the five-member Privacy and Civil
Davis, who remains in the headlines almost           with Whitewater and go through every single       Liberties Oversight Board, created by the
daily—most recently while defending Clinton          headline about investigating the Clinton          U.S. Congress as part of the 2005 Intelli-
against allegations made in a book by former         White House, you come up with zero.”              gence Reform Act. “He [Bush] invited me to
FBI director Louis Freeh—said his practice                                                             ride home with him on Air Force One when
focuses on “legal crisis communications,”            Davis says it is better to comment on a           he got an honorary degree from Yale. And I
which entails helping companies and individ-         breaking scandal that to stay silent, because     had my ride on Air Force One, which I never
uals with strategic communications. He also          too often headlines create a presumption of       had when Bill Clinton was president.”
practices civil litigation, with an emphasis         guilt, and companies and politicians are bet-
on securities fraud, accounting irregularities       ter served by telling the truth and admitting a   Although Davis was appointed to the Privacy
cases, antitrust, government contracts, and          mistake if one were made.                         and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in June,
commercial litigation.                                                                                 the board has yet to start work. The board
                                                     “Even if before there’s any evidence in, you      was a result of recommendations from the
“I created a new discipline in law practice,”        have prosecutors declaring CEOs as corrupt,       9- Commission.
Davis said. “When I left the White House in          and they haven’t even started their first day
February of 998, I realized that there was          in court,” he said. “The headlines cause          Davis, who was chairman of the Yale Daily
a need for a lawyer who knew how to talk to          the stock to drop, sometimes the CEOs are         News, was also a classmate of Senator Joe
journalists and who knew how to get facts            forced to resign, sometimes their reputation      Lieberman and worked on several of his
into stories, even in the middle of high-pro-        is ruined forever, and they still haven’t been    early political campaigns. After graduating
file cases, as opposed to the usual instinct         to court. It’s just pure accusation. And so       from law school and winning the prestigious
by most lawyers, which is to say, ‘No com-           what I do as a lawyer now is try to teach com-    Thurmon Arnold Moot Court prize, Davis
ment.’”                                              pany executives and company boards that you       moved to Washington to work as a speech-
                                                     have to fight back against the presumption-       writer for the Edmund Muskie presidential
Davis wrote the book Truth To Tell: Tell It          of-guilt culture, where accusation becomes a      campaign. Davis also unsuccessfully ran
Early, Tell It All, Tell It Yourself: Notes from     surrogate for truth.”                             for Congress in Maryland in the early 970s
My White House Education and dismisses                                                                 before joining the law firm Patton Boggs in
charges that Clinton’s White House was not           One of President George W. Bush’s fraternity      975 and making partner in 978.
the most honest.                                     brothers at Yale, Davis intended to become
                                                     either a journalist or a Democratic politician.   Although his run for office was unsuccess-
“The only allegations that ever had any              He attended law school, also at Yale, because     ful, Davis said the experience was invaluable
validity in terms of being accurate related to       he thought it would open doors in journalism      and has helped him throughout his career


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   LAWSTAR                                                                                            1.800. 973. 1177




supporting the Democratic Party. He served         to help him,” Davis said. “I feel sympathetic
three terms (980-992) on the Democratic          to Mr. Rove because I think if he’s indicted
National Committee representing the State          for talking to a reporter about what he knew
of Maryland.                                       about this story, it’s going to further chill, I
                                                   think, the job people have to do in the White
Davis joined Orrick in October 2003, bringing      House, which is to talk to reporters.”
along his Legal Crisis Communications col-
leagues.


When hiring for the practice group, Davis
said he prefers “three legs of the stool,”
meaning a law degree and experience in both
journalism and politics.
“We fundamentally created this new disci-
pline based on lawyers who have attorney-
client privilege. That’s the key difference
between us and a public relations firm or
the difference between us and lawyers who
are doing public relations, but they’re not
practicing lawyers,” he said.


The attorney-client privilege allows Davis
and his colleagues to provide media outlets
with all the facts in a case. A PR firm can’t be
as effective, Davis said, because it is gener-
ally not given all the facts of a case.


Although Davis’ clients are now mainly cor-
porations and CEOs, not politicians, he said
he hoped Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
would run for president and that he would
help in her campaign if possible.


Meanwhile, Davis has been busy defending
Clinton against Freeh’s charge that he failed
to ask Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah to coop-
erate with the FBI and instead hit the prince
up for a donation to Clinton’s presidential
library. Davis and others who were present
in the meeting with the crown prince say that
is a lie.


As for scandals at the Bush White House,
Davis said he hoped for the sake of journal-
ism that Bush advisor Karl Rove would not be
indicted.


“But I have been saying if Karl Rove is in-
dicted, he’s going to need somebody like me



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