Emily Loeb ’09 draws on DOJ experience to lead Jenner & Block’s congressional investigations practice

When Emily Loeb ’09 was a new lawyer in the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice (DOJ), she received advice from a mentor that has shaped her career, she says: Evaluate potential career moves not as steps to a goal, but based on the expertise you’ll gain in each new position.

Emily Loeb
Emily Loeb ’09

“It helped me understand that a position in one realm might sharpen or develop skill sets that were important to me, and that would be a better guide towards a career I love,” she says.

Following this advice, Loeb has moved between government and private practice and now heads Jenner & Block’s congressional investigations practice. After working in a number of positions at the DOJ, Loeb served as associate counsel for the Obama White House and then moved to Jenner, where she became a partner in 2018. Loeb leads strategy to help corporate clients, such as former Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, prepare for congressional testimony and respond to regulatory challenges and government investigations. In 2021, she became an associate deputy attorney general as part of President Biden’s first wave team at the DOJ before returning to Jenner in September 2022.

In this Q&A, Loeb discusses what she has learned and what she’s been able to accomplish through her work in private practice, government service, and the nonprofit sector.

How did you come to be interested in the law?

I’ve known for as long as I can remember that I wanted to be a lawyer and, most importantly, work in politics in Washington, DC. Before coming to law school, I spent two years working at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

I chose NYU because I thought it was the best law school in the country for aspiring lawyers who want to go into any manner of public service. I think the large contingent of people that are attracted to the Law School for that specific reason creates a unique and really incredible community that’s unusually supportive of public service careers. And I was really attracted to that atmosphere.

At NYU, I was a research assistant for the legendary Arthur Miller [University Professor and Warren E. Burger Professor of Constitutional Law and the Courts]. He taught me some of the most important lessons about how to be an excellent lawyer. One is to keep reading, meaning: don’t stop halfway through a document or an email. And the other was the importance of precision with details. While these are things that may seem like basics, Professor Miller knew that these lessons were important because they’re really the foundational skills to good lawyering.

During my 2L summer, I had the opportunity to work on the Obama presidential campaign, which I actually continued doing during the Fall of that academic year. This ended up being another important part of my time in law school.

You chair the congressional investigation practice at Jenner & Block. What does that role entail?

Since I started in private practice in 2016, what we’ve seen in the congressional investigation space, and more broadly in the practice that we at Jenner call “government controversies,” is that across industries, issues are arising in multiple arenas at once. Congress is demanding to hear from the CEO, even while there’s internal or regulatory investigations that may just be getting off the ground. At the same time, increasingly we’re seeing that state attorneys general are asking questions or demanding documents, and there may well be civil litigation. We’re now even seeing that the European Union’s parliament pick up on the tactics of Congress and asks for corporate executives to provide testimony.

A major facet of my practice is preparing people to testify before Congress. No matter what type of public speaking you’re used to, there’s really nothing like congressional testimony and the personal and business reputation risk that come along with it. I find it really rewarding to help guide clients through these high-pressure situations. To help them go from a place of feeling potentially defensive, to feeling in control of their own strategy and prepared for the questions that may come.

During your time in the Obama and Biden administrations, what are you most proud of having worked on?

I think that the thing that particularly stands out is the legal journey towards marriage equality. I got to be in the solicitor general’s private conference room at the Supreme Court when Don Verrilli argued the Windsor case. [The Court’s decision in US v. Windsor held that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to discriminate against same-sex married couples regarding certain benefits and rights offered to married people].

It was also an incredible privilege in early 2021 to be asked to join the Day One team at the Justice Department to help the Biden administration’s transition into office. It was an offer that I couldn’t turn down because of the incredible leadership that was nominated to come into the department, exceptional public servants and lawyers: [US Attorney General] Merrick Garland and [US Deputy Attorney General and former NYU Law Senior Distinguished Fellow] Lisa Monaco.

Both of my stints included work on the department’s affirmative legislative agenda as well. Upon my return to the department in 2021, I was able to support the department’s efforts to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act [which provides funding and resources in the DOJ to investigate and prosecute violent crimes against women]. I had been at the department in the Civil Rights Division when the legislation had last been reauthorized in 2013 with really important new civil rights protection. And this time we were thrilled that Congress reauthorized the bill on a bipartisan basis with provisions that modernize the act for a new generation.

It’s a critical piece of legislation [so it’s] important that Congress take a new look at it every decade or so, so that it can be modernized. It was really a big victory in 2021 for the Senate to come together on a bipartisan basis and strike a deal to get that bill passed.

Tell me about the anti-authoritarian accountability nonprofit, Protect Democracy, that you helped co-found in 2016.

As I’ve gotten more experience and progressed further in my career, I found there’s different ways that lawyers are able to contribute to their community. Sometimes that’s through government service, sometimes it’s through pro bono work, and then it can also be through nonprofit board service.

I am really proud of having been able to contribute to the founding of Protect Democracy. We helped create it in late 2016, early 2017 when several former colleagues of mine saw a gap in the legal nonprofit firmament that we thought was critical to fill: to have a group that was solely devoted to ensuring that our democracy resists what was already being recognized as a global rise in authoritarianism. And Protect Democracy now has nearly a hundred employees. It’s been on the legal forefront of many challenging issues that our country has faced.

Obviously, I went off the board when I joined the Department of Justice in 2021. But I am incredibly proud of having been able to use my expertise to build the structures for important work to be done now and in the future in that space.

This interview has been edited and condensed. Posted March 21, 2023.

Photo credit: Jenner & Block.