Covington’s policy team adds ex-Senate Judiciary general counsel

Signage outside of the law firm Covington & Burling LLP in Washington, D.C., U.S. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

  • Xenakis was ex-chief counsel to Sen. Feinstein on judiciary panel
  • Stanford Law School grad clerked for Judge Robert King on 4th U.S. Circuit

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(Reuters) – A former chief counsel to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein on the Senate Judiciary Committee has joined Covington & Burling as a special counsel, marking his first stint in private practice and positioning him to work on technology matters, antitrust issues and other policy areas for U.S. corporate clients.

Nicholas Xenakis will be a member of Covington’s public policy team in Washington, D.C., the firm said Tuesday. Xenakis has served as chief counsel and staff director for Feinstein, a California Democrat, since January. Earlier, he was general counsel to the judiciary committee under Feinstein’s leadership as the ranking Democrat.

Xenakis said his move to the private sector was “a long time” in the making.

“I’ve spent my entire career in public service, or the government–working right out of law school, after clerking, as a public defender, and then at the Hill,” he said. His new challenge, he said, will be taking bills and “trying to translate those into the private sector.”

Xenakis said he is eager to dive into technology advisory work amid the national debate over antitrust enforcement, privacy and liability shields for companies posting third-party material from users. In his roles at the judiciary committee, he helped direct legislative efforts on matters including intellectual property, immigration, criminal justice and national security.

Covington’s lobbying clients include Microsoft Corp, Qualcomm Inc, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems Inc and BP America Inc. Inc turned to Covington and Williams & Connolly to urge Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan to recuse in any investigations of the company.

The firm received more than $16 million in federal lobbying revenue last year, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets website.

Muftiah McCartin, co-chair of Covington’s public policy team, said Xenakis arrives with the institutional knowledge, political acumen and “policy chops” to help clients navigate new and emerging issues.

Feinstein publicly saluted Xenakis on Aug. 5 at the start of a judiciary committee meeting. At the hearing, judiciary chair Senator Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat, called Xenakis a “mentor and friend to many of our committee staff.”

Committee members quickly resumed their work voting on a slate of federal appeals and trial court nominees.

Xenakis clerked in West Virginia for Judge Robert King on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after graduating from Stanford Law School in 2010.

“I learned more about law in that one year clerking for Judge King than I did in three years of law school. I was really lucky,” he told Reuters. “Judge King was somebody who really relied on his clerks for writing all the opinions and bench memos and he sat there willing to talk through cases.”

King would often remind his law clerks that the “cases are about real people and there can be real consequences,” Xenakis said. He described King as “very much like Senator Feinstein in some ways” for having an ability to “cultivate relationships across the aisle.”

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Anthony Stoval