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Biden White House Counsel Is Ex-Cravath Lawyer, Alito Clerk (1)

Nov. 17, 2020, 11:59 PM; Updated: Nov. 18, 2020, 1:58 AM

President-elect Joe Biden Jr.’s new White House counsel Dana Remus is a former Cravath, Swaine & Moore associate and clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr. who also once wrote an academic paper on the future of lawyers.

Remus was one of nine White House staff appointments unveiled Tuesday by the president-elect’s transition team. A day prior Biden tapped Ronald Klain, a former O’Melveny & Myers partner serving as general counsel for AOL co-founder Steve Case’s investment firm Revolution LLC, to become his new chief of staff.

“She seems ideally suited to be White House counsel because she has so much grace under pressure,” said O’Melveny appellate litigation and public policy partner Walter Dellinger III, a former U.S. solicitor general who had nightly calls with Remus when they were both advising the Biden presidential campaign, she as its general counsel.

Alito sometimes recruits clerks from across the ideological spectrum, Dellinger said, and Remus’ appellate expertise could come in handy as the Supreme Court considers cases of importance to a Biden administration. Alito himself recently drew both criticism and praise for a Federalist Society speech that touched on hot-button legal issues such as religious freedom, same-sex marriage, and abortion.

As for Remus, Dellinger praised her ability to cope with an “extraordinary set of legal issues” and “make quick and firm decisions” during her time as general counsel to Biden’s campaign. He credited Remus for anticipating President Donald Trump’s litigation efforts challenging the results of the Nov. 3 presidential election, an effort now in the hands of Rudy Giuliani, formerly of Greenberg Traurig.

“She’ll create a positive atmosphere in the White House counsel’s office,” said Dellinger, acknowledging the large task ahead of her and their mutual ties to the University of North Carolina.

While Dellinger and Remus are both Yale Law School graduates, Dellinger did his undergraduate studies at UNC, where Remus spent three years as a law school professor focused on legal and judicial ethics and regulation of the legal profession.

Remus co-wrote a paper in 2015 that examined how artificial intelligence could change the face of the legal field. An analysis by Remus and legal billing firm Sky Analytics found certain aspects of lawyers’ day-to-day duties could be automated, leading to a potential 13% decline in billable hours at large law firms within five years. But the study also concluded the need for human attorneys will continue.

Remus was on leave from UNC and working in the Obama administration as a senior White House ethics lawyer at the time she co-authored the study.

Remus is a New Hampshire native who began her legal career as an associate at Cravath in New York, and taught at the University of New Hampshire School of Law and Drexel University’s law school before joining UNC in 2013. She would go on to serve as general counsel to former First Lady Michelle Obama’s personal office and the Obama Foundation.

A federal tax filing by the Chicago-based nonprofit shows it paid nearly $360,000 to Remus in 2018. That same year President Barack Obama officiated Remus’ wedding to former national security staffer Brett Holmgren.

Remus has for the past two years co-taught a summer class called “Lawyers Branching Out: The Courthouse, the Capitol, and the White House” at the Duke University School of Law with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a former partner at now-defunct Howrey who clerked for Alito on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

Remus began advising Biden’s campaign last year. Federal Election Commission records show that the campaign has paid her roughly $60,000 through October. Remus is now poised to succeed current White House counsel Pat Cipollone, a former Kirkland & Ellis partner who earns $183,000 per year, per public records.

Neither Remus nor Klain responded to requests for comment about their public service positions. Their appointments coincide with Winston & Strawn partner Julissa Reynoso Pantaleon becoming chief of staff to Dr. Jill Biden, the incoming first lady.

(Adds detail on summer law school class co-taught by Remus in 12th paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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