How an Arthur Andersen Lawyer Rebuilt Her Career

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Arthur Andersen in-house lawyer Nancy Temple hit bottom in 2002 when she was advised to hire a criminal defense lawyer. Although she was never charged, her document cleanup advice was cited when the accounting giant went on trial for obstruction of justice for destroying some of its Enron files.

“It might be useful to consider reminding the [Enron] engagement team of our documentation and retention policy,” Temple wrote in an e-mail to an Andersen partner before Enron filed for bankruptcy. “It will be helpful to make sure that we have complied with the policy.” The Supreme Court overturned the Arthur Andersen conviction in 2005, but the case left its mark, Crain’s Chicago Business reports.

Temple, now 45, is a partner in a six-person law firm, Katten & Temple, in “one of the more remarkable comebacks the city’s legal community has seen,” the story says. The Harvard Law School grad spoke to Crain’s Chicago Business in her first media interview since the Arthur Andersen case.

In 2002, Temple’s options were limited. She couldn’t return to BigLaw, including Sidley Austin where she had once worked. No public company would be willing to hire her. So she became a solo, taking a route “far from the white-shoe legal world she had known, through criminal law, risky contingent-fee cases and small-fry clients,” Crain’s says.

She also trained for the Chicago marathon and then an Ironman Triathlon. She went on a five-day hike in the Andes. “Maybe that’s what I was doing—focusing on the next task at hand,” she told the publication. “I just tried to get through each day. I was still employed. If I stepped back and thought about what I was going through, I would have probably been frightened to death.”

In 2005 she joined Freeman Freeman & Salzman as an of counsel, but she was left behind two years later when most of the partners went to Jenner & Block. Now she is building a new law firm with Mitchell Katten, a lawyer she met during triathlon training.

Thomas Durkin is a local lawyer who has referred matters to Temple. “She’s smart and tough,” Durkin told the publication. “Her experience in learning how the winds of fate can turn on anybody certainly helped her perspective.”

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