Former Attorney General William Barr won’t decide the next move in his legal career until he finishes writing a book, a person familiar with the matter said.
Barr has done some ad hoc advising on private equity matters in the last few months and has feelers out regarding future work, the person told Bloomberg Law. He is likely to limit his commitments after he completes the book, which is reportedly about his experience running the Justice Department.
Barr is pausing deliberations on his post-book career moves as many of his colleagues from President Donald Trump’s administration face roadblocks on their next steps. Several companies and law firms have distanced themselves from Trump since the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
“Had January sixth not happened, I believe more firms would be open to prospective partners who worked within the Trump administration,” said Scott Love, founder of Washington legal recruiting company The Attorney Search Group.
Law industry observers have speculated about where Barr might land since he left Justice in December. He worked in an of counsel role at Kirkland & Ellis before joining the Trump administration in 2019. He also ran Justice under former President George H.W. Bush.
He is among a group of lawyers who left Kirkland for posts in Trump’s Justice Department and White House who have not since returned to the country’s top-grossing law firm. That list also includes Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark, and former White House lawyers Patrick Philbin and John Eisenberg.
Barr, who declined comment for this story, told Business Insider he has ruled out a return to Kirkland and had not even discussed that possibility with firm leadership. A Kirkland representative did not respond to a request for comment.
Before Barr left Kirkland, he occasionally handled legal work directly as a consultant to companies like BP, formerly known as British Petroleum Corp. He represented others, such as Caterpillar Inc., in what were effectively bilateral deals he chose to handle through Kirkland to get sufficient legal support, according to the person familiar.
Winston & Strawn chair Tom Fitzgerald told Bloomberg Law earlier this month that, despite reports that Barr was spotted having lunch with Winston partner Dan Webb in the firm’s Chicago office, the firm is “not interviewing” and “not in discussions” with Barr.
Several former attorneys general have landed at Big Law firms in recent years, including Eric Holder, President Barack Obama’s Attorney General, who is now a partner with Covington & Burling in Washington; Loretta Lynch, who followed Holder as attorney general for Obama, and is now a New York-based partner with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; and Michael Mukasey, who served as George W. Bush’s attorney general from 2007 to 2009 and is now of counsel with Debevoise & Plimpton in New York.
Love said he was working earlier this year to place a high-level Trump administration lawyer—not Barr—but was told by some large law firms it would be “difficult” to get partners to support the hiring.
“In years past, I never had law firm clients say they thought it would be hard to get a partner vote approved based on political views or previous political affiliation,” Love said.
Barr has been criticized for his handling of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 2019 report on Russian interference in U.S. elections and his role in policing racial justice protests last summer. The Justice Department said May 24 that it will continue a court battle to shield from the public internal legal advice that Barr relied on to clear Trump of an obstruction of justice charge stemming from the Mueller probe.
In 2019, Barr and U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson sparred over Barr’s legal rationale for not charging Trump with obstructing the Russia investigation. Last year, another federal judge, Reggie Walton, criticized Barr for his characterizations of the Mueller report as “misleading” and “distorted.”
Given those experiences, it may be “a tough one” for a Big Law firm to hire Barr as a partner—if that is what he wants, said Dan Binstock, a partner with the legal recruiting firm Garrison & Sisson in Washington.
“Normally I would say that firms with a more conservative client base would still accept the risks in light of his high profile, depth of connections, and prior law firm experience,” Binstock said. “But the recent decision by Judge Jackson, and the one last year by Judge Walton questioning his truthfulness, might present a bridge too far.”
Barr ultimately put himself at odds with Trump when last December he declared that Justice had uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.
It’s unclear if Barr will raise that topic in his book, or which issues he’ll discuss. Also unclear is which publishing house signed the deal. According to an April 19 Politico account, Barr had been working on the book for the prior two months.