Ron Kirk, the top trade negotiator for the Obama administration and the first black mayor of Dallas, is joining Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, the law firm plans to announce today.
Kirk, who held the cabinet-level post of U.S. Trade Representative during Obama’s first term, will have the title of “senior of counsel” at the firm and split his time between Washington and Dallas. He will advise companies looking to expand internationally, he said.
“The greatest value I can add to the firm immediately is helping clients understand and penetrate emerging markets,” said Kirk, a lawyer by training. “As I began to think about transitioning away from public service, I looked for business opportunities that would provide me with a platform where I could work with businesses looking to expand their footprint and create more wealth and jobs here through their ability to access foreign markets.”
As the administration’s lead trade representative, Kirk furthered trade agreements with South Korea and Columbia, and pressed China and other U.S. trading partners to comply with labor and environmental standards.
Gibson Dunn managing partner Ken Doran said Kirk will help the firm grow internationally. The firm is especially honing in on Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.
“We’re very focused on building in Asia,” Doran said. “He can help us there for sure ... Increasingly, our clients are large multinational companies doing business all over the world. Ron knows several of them. He’s practical, very well connected and smart. That will add great value for us.”
Prior to joining the administration in 2009, Kirk was a partner at Houston-based law firm Vinson & Elkins and a state-level lobbyist for banking and energy companies including Merrill Lynch and Energy Future Holdings. He had a long career in Texas politics, starting as a legislative assistant to then-Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) before joining the Dallas attorney general’s office where he rose to assistant attorney general for government relations. He was appointed secretary of state of Texas in 1994, and the following year was elected to be the first black mayor of Dallas.