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Top 40 Under 40 Attorneys: Part I

This spring, Bisnow asked for nominations for DC-area lawyers who are 40 and under and have distinguished themselves. Come celebrate with these honorees and other movers and shakers in DC's legal and business communities during a July 15 reception on the Warner Building rooftop. (View the 40 honorees and sign up here.)

John W.F. Chesley, Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, 36


Job: Half of my time is spent litigating against the government on behalf of government contractors and the other half is spent on internal investigations and defending companies and individuals in white collar criminal matters. The diversity helps me stay sharp inside and outside of the courtroom and it definitely keeps each day interesting.

Pro bono: My biggest pro bono matter is an Innocence Project case out of Easton, MD. We represent a gentleman who was convicted 15 years ago of a truly horrible murder without any physical evidence, based on what I will kindly call “highly incentivized” testimony. We recently uncovered physical evidence that points to another suspect.

Career highlights: If I had to pick one, it likely would be the complete acquittal of Ted Urban after a two and a half week SEC enforcement trial. Ted was the general counsel of a prominent Mid-Atlantic broker-dealer who was charged with “failure to supervise” a broker who stole a significant amount of money from his own clients. In a 57-page decision, SEC Chief Judge Brenda Murray dismissed all charges, finding that Ted “performed his duties in a cautious, objective, thorough, and reasonable manner.” This was a terrible ordeal for Ted, who had a storied career in the securities industry. But we were incredibly happy to be a part of his ultimate vindication.

Why this career: I somehow stumbled into my calling in my third-choice career (after baseball and the police). I love stories, and being a lawyer gives me the opportunity to learn about and tell them for a living. It also is a great (albeit weighty) feeling whenever a client entrusts their most difficult and significant problems to you. I would probably still answer the phone if the Orioles called, but until then I can’t think of anything I would rather do.

Where you grew up: Fort Washington, MD.

First job: Laborer for a moving company when I was 16.

Family: Married to a wonderful woman with five incredible children.

Free time: Playing baseball in an adult league, coaching our firm softball team, kayaking on the Chesapeake with my wife, and doing whatever my kids will still do with me.

10 years from now: If I am lucky, I'll be doing this.

Favorite vacation spot: We just bought our “forever” house on the water in Eastport (Annapolis) and as far as I am concerned that is heaven on earth. I foresee “staycations” for the near future.

Bucket list: Learning to sail and becoming a beach-hopper in retirement.

Daily habit: Getting up early and applying copious amounts of hot sauce to just about everything.

Startling fact: Former police officer and five kids (although three came via a very successful marital acquisition).

Jonice Gray Tucker, Partner, BuckleySandler LLP, 40


Job: Focus on financial services and products. I represent corporate and individual clients in supervision and enforcement matters initiated by government regulators, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Prudential Banking Regulators and State Attorneys General. I also represent clients in complex private litigation.

Bar association and pro bono: I am Vice Chair of the American Bar Association's Banking Law Committee and Vice Chair of the Fair Access to Services Subcommittee of the Consumer Financial Services Committee. I am on the Board of Directors for the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, and the Board of Trustees for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. I also serve on advisory boards for the Ron Brown Scholars Program and the National Consumer League’s LifeSmarts Program. I have a special connection to Legal Aid in that I was seconded to the organization for six months about 11 years ago. I was invited to join the Board of Directors last year, and it was a particularly meaningful because I had been down in the trenches experiencing the work they do many years ago.

Career highlights: When I was a first year associate at Skadden, I was assigned to work with legendary white-collar lawyers Bob Bennett and Saul Pilchen on a high-profile case that Bob had taken on, pro bono. We were working to exonerate a young Boston cop, Kenny Conley, who had been wrongly convicted of obstructing justice. We ended up litigating that case for four years, going up to the First Circuit twice, having an unfavorable panel decision overturned when the matter was heard en banc, and ultimately prevailing when the case was remanded to the district court. After the conviction was overturned, our client was reinstated as a Boston police officer. Now a detective in Boston, he has received a number of accolades for his work, including White House recognition for his heroic work in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing. Getting a conviction overturned, when that person goes on to do so much good for others, it’s hard to imagine anything better.

Why this career: I went to college on a merit-based biomedical scholarship. To the shock (and dismay) of many, I decided to go to law school instead of medical school. One of the first cases to which I was assigned was an FTC enforcement matter against a major US bank. That case set the stage for much that would happen in my career over the next 15 years. The partners leading that matter, Andy Sandler and Ben Klubes, have become lifelong mentors. I worked with them for years, and now they are my own partners.

Where you grew up: Native Washingtonian, and I have lived here almost all of my life.

Why DC: No need to go elsewhere when you live in a fabulous city! DC has the attributes of a big city, but in many ways, retains a small town feel. It’s a livable city that is great for raising a family.

First job: Intern for then Ward 7 City Councilmember H.R. Crawford in the late 1980s.

Family: I met my husband, Stacy Tucker, in high school. We have been married for 15 years and have two children: Jillian, who is 7, and Austin, who is 10.

Free time: Traveling outside the US with my family. We have visited more than 15 countries, including Estonia, Sweden, Turkey and Russia. According to my children, zip-lining in Costa Rica was the coolest experience so far and The Tower of London is a close second.

10 years from now: You can’t predict the future, but if you keep an open mind, experiences that you may not have imagined could come your way. So, 10 years from now, I hope that I still have that open mind, and I can’t wait to see what life brings me.

Favorite vacation spot: The Turks and Caicos Islands. This photo was taken there.

Bucket list: No surprise that it’s travel-related. I would love go to Indonesia, including Bali and Komodo Island.

Daily habit: Indoor cycling. A couple of years ago, I bought my husband a spin bike for Christmas. He managed to convince me that I should start using it even though I had never been a cycler. I did so begrudgingly, and now he has to negotiate with me for time to use his spin bike.

Startling fact: I was born on Friday, May 9, 1975, and am named for my grandfather, John. My daughter Jillian was born on Friday, May 9, 2008 (and incidentally, proclaims that she was the best birthday present I will ever receive). I carried on the naming tradition, but gave my grandmother Lillian a little credit too. Jillian is named for both of them.

Michael B. Bernstein, Partner, Arnold & Porter LLP, 39


Job: Specializes in obtaining antitrust clearance for mergers, acquisitions and other business combinations. Also advises clients in government investigations, civil litigation, and counsels on the antitrust implications of everyday business practices.

Bar association and pro bono: American Bar Association, Section of Antitrust Law; also served on the International Bar Association Antitrust Working Group regarding Proposed US Horizontal Merger Guidelines. An active pro bono practice includes currently representing a client seeking post-conviction relief.

Career highlights: Recently I led the antitrust representation for Kroger’s $2.5B acquisition of Harris Teeter, which was cleared with no divestitures (a rare occurrence in grocery store mergers). It not only was incredible to help a longtime client with its largest transaction in about a decade, but it also resulted in Kroger gaining a presence in the DC area; now I finally get to shop on a regular basis at a Kroger-owned store. I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to work in a great collegial environment that has fostered my development, including working with and learning the ropes from Bill Baer (current Deputy Attorney General for Antitrust at the Department of Justice) and Debbie Feinstein (current Director at the Bureau of Competition at the Federal Trade Commission).

Why this career: Antitrust is the perfect intersection of law and business.

Where you grew up: Winnetka, IL

Why DC: There is no better place to be than right down the street from the agencies.

First job: Intern at Arnold & Porter.

Family: Wife (Jodi, 4 years); Daughter (Alexis, 15 weeks old).

Free time: Golfing; spending quality time with family and friends.

10 years from now: Hopefully, I’ll continue to be called upon for the most interesting industry-changing transactions and to help clients solve their most difficult problems. But, most importantly, my wife and I will be parents of a 10-year-old, and we are just hoping that time doesn’t go by too quickly.

Favorite vacation spots: Maui, HI, and Boca Raton, FL.

Bucket list: Playing in the World Series of Poker.

Daily habit: I start my day by reading the business press to make sure I stay on top of what may be affecting my clients and end my day with story time with my daughter, which puts everything in perspective.

Startling fact: Loves to cook.

Rachel D. Burke, Partner, Furey, Doolan & Abell LLP


Job: Focus on estate planning and administration with a heavy emphasis on estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax planning. I tailor the estate plans of individuals and couples to meet both their tax and non-tax goals. I also advise and assist fiduciaries and beneficiaries in the administration of existing trusts and estates.

Bar association: Steering Committee Member, Taxation Section, District of Columbia Bar (2013- ); Past Chair, Estate Planning Committee, Taxation Section, District of Columbia Bar (2009-2011); Vice-Chair, Estate Planning Committee, Taxation Section, District of Columbia Bar (2008-2009); Second Vice-Chair and Subcommittee Chair for Important Developments (2011-2013), Fiduciary Income Tax Committee, Section of Taxation, ABA

Career highlights: Honestly, it’s all been rewarding. I’ve helped families resolve major conflicts, address areas of concern and save significant taxes.

Why this career: While I have always enjoyed the challenging technical aspects of estate planning—the property law and tax law side—I am most rewarded by working with individuals and their families. It’s great to help navigate people through complex decisions, often during difficult periods in their lives.

Where you grew up: Chevy Chase, MD

Why DC: I was born and raised here. It is such a great city. I saw no reason to leave!

First job: Counselor at an overnight summer camp.

Family: My husband Malcolm and I met in law school at W&L. We have two children, Caroline (9) and Courtney (6).

Free time: Volunteering at my children’s school, playing tennis, cooking (especially gluten-free baking).

10 years from now: Doing the same thing. I love what I do and like many of my estate planning colleagues, I feel a real sense of responsibility toward my clients.

Favorite vacation spots: Truro, MA, and Isle of Palms, SC

Bucket list: I would love to check out Yellowstone under Canvas. It looks beautiful and I love camping.

Daily habit: At least two cups of coffee.

Startling fact: I’m an estate planner, I don’t share startling facts!

Tejinder Singh, Partner, Goldstein & Russell P.C., 33


Job: Partner at a Supreme Court boutique litigation firm. We focus on cases before the Court and on challenging legal problems in the lower courts. We typically collaborate with co-counsel who have subject matter expertise. Working together on teams with other great lawyers is a huge plus to my job.

Bar association and pro bono: I am a member of the South Asian Bar Association of DC and regularly speak at events hosted by them and other organizations about Supreme Court cases, trends and issues. I am also an instructor in the Harvard Law School Supreme Court clinic, which exclusively represents pro bono clients in cases before the Court. But even outside the clinic, a large percentage of our practice is pro bono. Because our firm is relatively small (four lawyers at the moment), we have very little overhead. Appellate advocacy is also less costly than trial advocacy (there are no expert witnesses to pay, no exhibits to prepare, etc). That gives us the freedom to take on the most interesting and rewarding work we can find.

Career highlights: Arguing and winning in Lane v. Franks, a Supreme Court case about whether the First Amendment protects sworn testimony by a public employee describing facts he discovered in the course of his duties. My client, Edward Lane, was the director of a program for at-risk youth who discovered corruption and testified about it. He was then fired. The lower courts erroneously held that because his testimony described events that occurred at work, it constituted performance of his job responsibilities and was therefore not protected by the First Amendment. We convinced the Supreme Court to reverse that holding—unanimously.

Why this career: To be honest, I lucked into it. I had no particular desire to do appellate advocacy, as opposed to trial work. But my first summer in law school I worked with my colleague Tom Goldstein, and we hit it off. I meet all kinds of lawyers—and what often distinguishes the happy ones from the sad ones is that the happy ones work with people they like and respect. If that’s the right way to keep score, then I hit a home run at my first at-bat and I’ve never really looked elsewhere.

Where you grew up: Born in Punjab, India. My family immigrated to this country in 1984, and I grew up in San Jose, CA.

Why DC: I came here for work during my first summer of law school. You meet a great mix of interesting people. And of course, if you’re going to do Supreme Court work, then it’s the place to be. Now that I’m a father, I’ve discovered that DC is also an amazing place to raise children. Between the Smithsonian Institution and all of the beautiful parks and monuments, there’s so much for them to see, learn and do. And because 95% of the attractions are free, you don’t feel guilty about staying for 30 minutes (or however long the little ones’ attention span lasts) before taking off.

First job: My first job out of law school was as an attorney in the international capital markets practice at Allen & Overy in London. I went to London chasing after a girl (who fortunately decided to marry me) and it was by far the best job I could land. I started at A&O in 2008, and it was a very strange time to be a transactions attorney because the global financial crisis was just kicking off. But I think I learned more about derivatives, CDOs and monetary policy than I would have learned anywhere else.

Family: I have an amazing wife, Anna, who is herself an attorney, a 2.5-year-old son named Leo (who is not the best lawyer I’ve ever met—but is also sadly not the worst), and another little boy due at the end of the month. My father is a scientist and my mother is a schoolteacher, and they both still live in California. My sister is a doctor in NYC.

Free time: I love to cook, and now that we’re home six nights a week with Leo, that comes in handy. I like to play poker. And lately I’ve been exploring opportunities to invest in local small businesses to try to build up a greater connection with the District and my neighborhood in Capitol Hill.

10 years from now: I don’t know yet, but I’m open to ideas. As much as I love what I’m doing now, I don’t suspect that I’ll do it forever. When this stops feeling like an adventure, I’ll move on to something that does.

Favorite vacation spots: My wife is from New Zealand. I’ve been there four times now and loved it each time. I’m also a huge fan of Vieques in Puerto Rico.

Daily habit: Every day I try to read at least one book with my son.

Startling fact: The amount spent on the 2016 presidential election is going to exceed $3B—and might go higher than $4B. That startled me.

Teresa Y. Bernstein, Chief Legal Officer and Chief Compliance Officer, ACON Investments, 38


Job: Manage legal and compliance issues arising at a $3.6B middle-market private equity firm that invests in businesses across a wide range of industries in the United States and Latin America. Responsible for the firm’s investment adviser regulatory compliance program. Participate in fund formation, fundraising, deal structuring, portfolio company acquisitions and exits, investor communications and reporting, litigation management and employment/HR issues.

Pro bono involvement: Currently, I am helping set up a nonprofit foundation.

Career highlight: Obtaining an in-house job that I love.

Why this career: I became interested in law school as a result of working as a corporate paralegal at a New York law firm—a job I sought because I couldn't make my rent payments! The business issues interested me (despite having been a literature major headed towards a career in journalism or academia), and I discovered I liked problem solving and working in a fast-paced, high-stakes environment. I was lucky early on to be exposed to M&A and private equity work and was drawn to this practice because of the way it works to bring parties together—a win-win for all.

Where you grew up: Born in Singapore, lived in Indonesia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Switzerland and in California, Illinois, New York and Washington, DC.

Why DC: Because I had a serious boyfriend (now my husband) who was from DC and could not stomach moving to New York City. I took a leap of faith and moved here and discovered that great corporate work does in fact exist outside of New York!

First job: Working the welcome desk at a life-size, animated dinosaur museum exhibit.

Family: Married to someone amazing who has put up with me for 14 years already (nine of them married). Three kids, ages 7, 4 and eight months.

Free time: Running, bicycling, photography, trying to make things I see on Pinterest and failing miserably.

10 years from now: The same thing, but better. Oh, and taking my son on a college tour.

Favorite vacation spots: Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, Denali National Park in Alaska and Rehoboth Beach in Delaware.

Bucket list: Complete a Half Ironman, camp with family in Yosemite, go on a National Geographic photography expedition in Africa, and start doing yoga.

Daily habit: Grande coffee with hazelnut syrup.

Startling fact: My dream growing up was to be a fiction writer.

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