New job for former U.S. attorney in Virginia who once led McDonnell, WikiLeaks probes

November 21, 2013

The Eastern District of Virginia’s former U.S. attorney, who once led the high-profile probes into Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and the WikiLeaks organization, will join an international law firm known for its white-collar criminal defense work, the firm announced Thursday.

Neil MacBride, who left the high-profile U.S. attorney’s post in September, will join the firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell as a partner in its D.C. office, the firm said in a news release. MacBride, 48, a graduate of Houghton College in New York and the University of Virginia law school, had worked as the U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia since 2009, successfully prosecuting several terrorism suspects and winning notable convictions against 26 Somali pirates.

In an interview, MacBride said he was attracted to the firm’s “team orientation” and practice of paying partners the same amount based on when they are hired and not on the business they bring in. He said the firms’ other high-profile hires — among them former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission Jon Leibowitz — and expanding presence in D.C. also played into his decision.

“They’ve really planted the flag in the nation’s capital,” MacBride said.

MacBride had not said publicly what he wanted to do after departing from the U.S. attorney’s office, and his new job was first reported by the New York Times. The Times reported that his salary is expected to jump into the millions, far above the $155,000 annual paycheck he collected as U.S. attorney. MacBride declined to comment on his compensation.

MacBride said he will focus on government investigations and white-collar criminal defense work at the firm — areas not unfamiliar to him as U.S. attorney or in previous jobs. Before being appointed U.S. attorney, MacBride worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in the District and as an associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department. He also worked as then-Sen. Joe Biden’s chief counsel when Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on crime and drugs.

Dana J. Boente, a longtime Justice Department lawyer, has been serving as acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia since shortly after MacBride’s departure, but who will fill the role permanently has yet to be decided. Potential candidates were asked last month to submit an application to Virginia’s senators by Nov. 8, and the senators’ offices said they would consider those applications in recommending someone for the job to the president. The senators’ offices declined to release a list of the applicants.

MacBride said he will officially begin at Davis Polk in March or April. In the meantime, he said that he is excited to travel, read and “catch up on five years’ worth of sleep.”

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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