The mystery subject of the headline above, George T. Conway III, is a Wachtell Lipton partner, who has managed to pretty much stay out of the news this election despite being married to Donald Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway.
His low-profile partially owes to the fact he has no reported role in the campaign, and his wife Kellyanne, the first woman to manage a presidential campaign, only assumed her role this summer.
But he appeared briefly in a recent New Yorker profile of Kellyanne. It explained the couple used to live in Trump World Tower near the United Nations in Manhattan. She became friendly with Trump while sitting on the building’s condo board. Already a Republican political consultant, he tapped her as his manager this August after a campaign shakeup.
While George Conway is not reported to be involved in the campaign, he does hold anti-Clinton credentials. Per the New Yorker:
…as a young lawyer [he] played a historic — and largely hidden — role in the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Conway, a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law School, worked at the New York City firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and was a member of the Federalist Society, the conservative organization that led many of the legal challenges to the Clinton Administration. When Paula Jones sued Bill Clinton for sexual harassment, Conway wrote the Supreme Court brief, though his name never appeared on it. The Court, in a landmark decision, agreed with Jones’s argument that a sitting President could face a civil lawsuit. During depositions in the lawsuit, Clinton denied having a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, which eventually led to his impeachment trial. George Conway became deeply involved in getting out information from the depositions. During that period, he reportedly e-mailed Matt Drudge an infamous scoop about the shape of Clinton’s penis.
According to his bio on the Wachtell website, he graduated Yale Law School in 1987, spent a year clerking, then joined the firm in September 1988 and made partner a mere five and a half years later in January 1994.
His bio also credits Conway with briefing and arguing Morrison v. National Australia Bank, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 does not cover claims by foreign investors who purchased securities of foreign issuers on foreign exchanges. That at least makes him famous in Big Law.
He did not accept our invitation for an interview, which seems to conform with his low-profile in the media. This August, the American Lawyer’s Vivian Chen highlighted Conway’s connection and pondered whether his wife’s then-recent appointment as campaign manager would bring more lawyers from Wachtell over to Trump land.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Conway donated $2,750 to Trump’s campaign in July, (and also, in the past, large amounts to Ted Cruz and other Republican candidates) but no one else from the firm has donated to Trump this year.
More generally the Center for Responsive Politics reported that as of Sept. 21, lawyers and lobbyists had donated $690,000 to Trump’s campaign — just a fraction of the $6.6 million profits per partner that Wachtell reported last year. And a fraction of the $29.5 million donated to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
William Henderson, a law professor at Indiana University, said that by and large law firms treat partners’ spouses’ work and personal lives as irrelevant to the business of the firm, which makes the situation different from if Conway were stumping for Trump. It is also not likely to affect the firm’s ability to recruit law students, he said.
“Overwhelmingly, law students go where the prestige is, and Wachtell is not likely to lose prestige over its connection to the Trump campaign,” said Henderson.
Write to us at BigLawBusiness@bna.com.