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DC's Top Prosecutor Moves To Dechert


The District's top prosecutor has moved to the defense side, joining Dechert's DC office as a litigation partner. Vincent Cohen Jr. most recently served as the acting US Attorney for DC for six months (replacing Ron Machen, who rejoined WilmerHale), heading the 300-lawyer office, the largest of the country's US Attorney's Offices. Before that, he spent five years as its Principal Assistant US Attorney. At Dechert, he'll help build and lead a white-collar practice, telling us, "There's a lot of runway here."

Vincent anticipates joining some existing large cases—such as the Takata defective airbags suit—in addition to taking on matters that include national and international cybercrimes, the False Claims Act and FCPA issues. He worked on related issues during his time at the US Attorney's Office: helping create and grow both a Cyber Unit and the first federal Conviction Integrity Unit in a US Attorney's Office; supervising work in ongoing cases both against an alleged participant in the Benghazi attack on US facilities, and in the largest domestic bribery and bid-rigging scheme in the history of federal contracting cases; cracking down on corruption and illegal money moving; and expanding work on civil enforcement actions, particularly to do with the FCA.

A native Washingtonian, he also emphasized community outreach: "Because we're the local prosecutors in DC as well as the federal prosecutors, the people of the District are our grand jurors, jurors and witnesses. You have to be out in the community in times of calm so in times of chaos, they don't hesitate to speak with you about what they know."


Vincent joined Dechert on Jan. 4. He tells us litigation partner Andy Levander (right, with DOD inspector general and former Dechert partner Glenn Fine, in a Bisnow photo)—one of the head lawyers on the high-profile Takata case—reached out to him when he was leaving the government. As Vincent was being courted by several firms, Dechert's international footprint appealed to him, particularly the white-collar presence outside of the US, given the increasingly cross-border nature of white-collar cases.

When he was 6 or 7, Vincent saw his father (a prominent lawyer after whom he was named) in trial and knew then what he wanted to do as a career. He remembers how riveted the jurors were, how respectful his father was to the court and opposing counsel, yet how persuasive. Vincent Cohen Sr. had worked at the DOJ and EEOC, and became the first African-American partner at Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells), where his son also later worked. 

"One of the things he used to say all the time was, 'Master your craft.' You have to take the time to learn—it's called the 'legal practice' for a reason." That's why Vincent's stint as an AUSA in DC was such an important part of his legal career, he says, when he was initially hired by then-US Attorney Eric Holder in 1997. Vincent has since passed the baton along, hiring more than 150 AUSAs while heading the Office's hiring committee. "I've always believed that government work is important," Vincent tells us. "I can see myself going back to public service at some point in a different capacity."