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Keeping clients current on political laws, government contracts
With clients engaging in political activity at federal and state levels and working on government contracts overseas, it’s critical for Bassel Korkor ’06 and the staff at Arnold & Porter LLP to monitor changes to laws governing everything from campaign finance to lobbying to government ethics.
Korkor, an associate at the Washington, D.C. firm, practices in political law and government contracts law, to put it simply. But his job requires expertise in a range of extremely detailed areas so he can counsel clients effectively.
“Both practice areas involved the intersection of public policy and government regulation, a specialty of Arnold & Porter,” he said.
His interest in those areas can be traced back to Columbus, Ohio, when he joined the Law School Democrats at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law as a 1L. As an undergraduate at Northwestern University, Korkor was only occasionally politically engaged. However, there was a “great energy” at Moritz during his law school years, and he felt strongly about changing the political landscape during the 2004 presidential election.
He remembers vividly the rally the Law School Democrats organized on campus for then-presidential candidate John Edwards. As president of the student group, he had the honor of introducing the candidate to the energetic crowd swelling in one of the grand ballrooms at the Ohio Union, and he had the opportunity to talk with Edwards backstage.
“It went so well that Elizabeth Edwards – who was both a lawyer a woman I admired politically and intellectually – contacted us to ask if she could meet the people who put that rally together,” he recalled. “We had coffee and bagels with her in a third-floor classroom in Drinko Hall a few days later.”
Korkor also fondly recalls participating in the Washington, D.C., Summer Program with Professor Peter Swire. Students spent the summer in Washington, interning at government agencies and taking courses with Swire, including courses about public policy and “D.C. lawyering” that are relevant to Korkor’s current practice.
He took a break from political activity while clerking for the Honorable David A. Katz ’57, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio. Korkor said, “He is commonly considered by me and his other former clerks to be the best boss you could have.” Korkor said that he learned a lot from Katz, both about the law and about the practice of law. During that time, Korkor also married his wife, Diana, in Cleveland.
At Arnold & Porter, he advises major consumer goods corporations, financial services firms, and government contractors on federal and state political law and ethics compliance matters. The firm has a staff dedicated to monitoring changes through news reports, court decisions, legislative activity, and blogs. Korkor said his clients rely on the firm to keep track of ever-changing state and federal laws to make sure their compliance is up-to-date.
Additionally, Korkor advises clients on national security issues, privacy laws, and government contracts. Clients, again, rely on him to help them stay on the right side of national security laws such as U.S. and United Nations sanctions programs and domestic and foreign privacy laws. “Many of these policy-based laws stretch across borders and are very important for clients’ compliance purposes,” he said. “I occasionally have opportunities to use my knowledge of Arabic on these matters, and I’ve researched regulations and proposed legislation in post-war Afghanistan.”
Korkor usually deals with U.S. clients in his government contract work. The government is required to award contracts to bids that offer the best value to the government, and Korkor said it is interesting to examine the systems in place to resolve disputes over whether the government is receiving “the best bang for its buck.” This often involves high-paced administrative or civil litigation, and Korkor has gained experience developing arguments, writing briefs, and taking depositions. He often finds himself thinking back to Professor Chris Fairman’s Civil Procedure and Professor Peter Shane’s Administrative Law courses when developing arguments in those cases.
With his pro bono work, Korkor finds opportunities to practice both within and outside of his specialized areas. He helped on a state’s ethics commission investigation of nonprofit organizations and has written two amicus briefs for the Supreme Court of the United States. One was related to material support for a terrorism statute, and the other addressed constitutional right to counsel for indigent defendants. Again, Korkor thought back to his Moritz classes – in particular Professor David Goldberger’s Constitutional Law and First Amendment courses – while working on those briefs.
“Even though I don’t see them often, I think of all of these professors as I come across a practice area or an issue that they introduced to us,” he said. “I think of the way they taught us to recognize issues and underlying policies, and to interpret and apply the law.”
Korkor clearly relishes the memories of his law school years at Moritz, and he is thrilled that his younger sister, Dania Korkor, is studying at Moritz. She is a member of the Class of 2013.
“We’re continuing the legacy!” he said. “She sometimes calls to ask me about study habits or which courses to take. She’ll tell me about what she’s studying. It’s been great for me to stay in touch with the law school that way.”
This article was written by Monica DeMeglio.