Three Alums Listed Among 50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers

Three Alums Listed Among 50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers
Fernandes ’83, Holder ’76 and Johnson ’82 Named to National Law Journal List
Press contact:
James O’Neill 212-854-1584 Cell: 646-596-2935
June 23, 2008 (NEW YORK) – Three Columbia Law School alumni were included among the National Law Journal’s recent list of the “50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America.”
The list, published in the May 26 edition of the NLJ, includes brief biographies on Columbia Law School alumni Edward Fernandes ’83, Eric H. Holder Jr. ’76 and Jeh C. Johnson ’82.
In introducing the list, NLJ associate editor Michael Moline notes that a mere 5.4 percent of partners at U.S. law firms are members of minority groups. For women of color, the figure is less than than 1.7 percent, according to the legal placement organization NALP.

“But what an amazing group of people those numbers represent, and what a payoff for the firms, law schools and corporations that invested in diversity,” Moline writes. He explains that to create the list, readers were asked to nominate candidates who have had a national impact in their legal fields and beyond during the past five years. The newspaper was looking for attorneys who have “demonstrated the power to change the law, shape public affairs, launch industries and get big things done.”
The newspaper notes that Fernandes, who, in 2003 moved over to, where he had defense wins in three multimillion-dollar lawsuits during his first year at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in 2003. More recently, he won a $153 million trade secrets verdict for client Hexion Specialty Chemicals Inc. against Texas litigator Rusty Hardin. Feernandes manages the litigation team in Akin Gump’s Austin, Texas office.
NLJ notes that Fernandes, whose family emigrated from the Cape Verde Islands when he was a child, represents some of the country’s largest companies in complex litigation involving trade secrets, international banking transactions and intellectual property. Before moving to Akin Gump in 2003, he had  founded one of the largest minority-owned law firms in Houston. He is a director of the State Bar of Texas and is an adjunct professor at the University of Houston Law Center.
Eric H. Holder Jr., with Covington & Burling in Washington, is an emeritus member of Columbia Law School’s Board of Visitors, on which he served from 1995 to 2003. NLJ notes that he currently serves as national co-chair of the Barack Obama presidential campaign. It also points out that Holder recently brought to closure a criminal investigation into payments made by Chiquita Brand International’s former Colombian subsidiary to a paramilitary group that had been designated a terrorist entity by the U.S. government.
Earlier, Holder served as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and then as deputy U.S. attorney general. He has represented the National Football League in the “Spygate” affair, in which a former employee of the New England Patriots alleged that the team videotaped its opponents’ pregame warm-ups.
NLJ also features Jeh Johnson, who in 1994 became the first black lawyer to be named partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York. He had first been a federal prosecutor in New York. In 1998, he took a sabbatical from the firm to serve as general counsel of the U.S. Air Force.
NLJ writes that Johnson is a foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and a member of Obama’s national finance team, as well as a pledged delegate from New Jersey. Johnson, who worked for Senator John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign as a fundraiser and special counsel, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He came back to the Law School in April as a luncheon speaker at the annual Paul Robeson Conference.
Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, and criminal law.