Executive Branch

Better Question: Who Isn't a Lawyer on Obama's Transition Team?

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President-elect Barack Obama and his VP-elect Joe Biden wasted no time assembling their transition team, which features a number of attorneys. (Graduates of Harvard Law School, Obama’s alma mater, also proliferate.)

Among the lawyers on the list, Valerie Jarrett, described by the New York Times as a once-unhappy attorney who found her niche in Chicago municipal government and is now the president and CEO of Habitat Co., will be one of the triumvirate overseeing Obama’s new team, reports the Swamp.

The two other members of the top trio are John Podesta, a former Senate staff counsel and chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, and Pete Rouse, Obama’s chief of staff in the Senate, according to the article in the Chicago Tribune political blog. Podesta, the New York Times notes in a biography today, is president of the Center for American Progress and a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center.

Other attorneys on the senior staff team include the president-elect’s new executive director, Chris Lu; general counsel, Cassandra Butts; and director of public liaison and intergovernmental affairs, Michael Strautman.

Janet Napolitano, the Democratic governor of Arizona and the state’s former U.S. attorney, will serve on an advisory board, as will Michael Froman, another Harvard Law grad who now works at Citigroup and formerly worked for the Treasury Department. Other attorneys in the advisory group include but are not limited to Federico Peña, a University of Texas School of Law graduate who served as the secretary of transportation under President Bill Clinton.

“Obama’s team started mulling transition issues as long ago as April, I’m told, before Obama had the Democratic nomination locked up, but did not want anyone acknowledging their work,” states the Lynn Sweet blog post in the Sun-Times, which was published Oct. 27. ” ‘Barack was emphatic,’ a source told me. ‘We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.’ “

The full list is being widely reported as follows:

Transition Senior Staff

Chris Lu - Executive Director. Lu is Harvard Law grad recently promoted to be Obama’s senate chief of staff. (Chicago Sun-Times)

Dan Pfeiffer - Communications Director

Stephanie Cutter - Chief Spokesperson. Cutter was deputy communications director at President Bill Clinton’s White House and is a former associate administrator of communications at the EPA. She is a Georgetown law grad. (SourceWatch)

Cassandra Butts - General Counsel. Butts is a Harvard Law graduate and former top official at the Center for American Progress. (CQ Politics)

Jim Messina - Personnel Director

Patrick Gaspard - Associate Personnel Director

Christine Varney - Personnel Counsel. A Georgetown law grad, Varney is a onetime Federal Trade Commissioner. She heads Hogan & Hartson’s Internet law practice group in D.C. (Hogan & Hartson)

Melody Barnes - Co-Director of Agency Review. Before joining the Obama election and transition effort, Barnes was a policy executive at the Center for American Progress and until 2004 was chief counsel to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate judiciary committee. She’s a University of Michigan law grad. (Center for American Progress)

Lisa Brown - Co-Director of Agency Review

Phil Schiliro - Director of Congressional Relations. A graduate of Lewis & Clark Law School, Schiliro is chief of staff to Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. (TotalCapitol and Politico)

Michael Strautman - Director of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs. Strautman was Obama’s chief counsel and deputy chief of staff in the senate. (CQ Politics)

Katy Kale - Director of Operations

Brad Kiley - Director of Operations

Advisory Board

Carol Browner. A one-time head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Browner is earned her J.D. from the University of Florida. (EPA)

William Daley. The former commerce secretary is a graduate of the John Marshall Law School in Chicago and is brother to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. (Forbes)

Christopher Edley. A Harvard Law grad and one-time Harvard professor, Edley is now dean at U.C. Berkeley’s law school. (Berkeley)

Michael Froman. A Harvard Law grad, he now works as a Citigroup executive and formerly worked for the Treasury Department. (New York Times)

Julius Genachowski. Another Harvard Law grad and a major campaign fundraiser, he previously was chief counsel to the Federal Communications Commission. (New York Times)

Donald Gips

Governor Janet Napolitano. President Clinton appointed Napolitano, a University of Virginia law grad, to Arizona’s U.S. attorney post. (UVA Lawyer)

Federico Peña. A civil rights lawyer who graduated from the University of Texas School of Law, he served as the mayor of Denver, Colo., as well as the secretary of transportation in the administration of President Bill Clinton. (Washington Post)

Susan Rice

Sonal Shah

Mark Gitenstein. A longtime Biden friend and adviser, Gitenstein is Georgetown law grad and former chief counsel to the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee. He is a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Mayer Brown. (Mayer Brown)

Ted Kaufman. Though not a lawyer, Kaufman, a longtime friend, adviser and staffer for Biden, is a senior lecturing fellow at Duke Law School. (Duke)

Additional coverage:

Bloomberg: “Obama Names Podesta, Jarrett to Head Transition Team”

Daily Kos: “OTT: The Obama Transition Team in Detail”

London Times: “Transition team looks to emulate Roosevelt, not Carter”

ABA Journal (November 2008 cover story): “The Lawyers Who May Run America”

Council on Foreign Relations (Oct. 2, 2008): “Foreign Policy Brain Trusts: Obama’s Advisers”

Last Updated 11:45 a.m. Nov. 6.

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