The White House counsel to former President Bill Clinton was appointed as the next University vice president and general counsel Tuesday afternoon.
Beth Nolan, a former GW law professor and a current partner at the Crowell & Moring LLP international law firm, will serve as an adviser to University President Steven Knapp and will lead the GW’s legal staff.
“The dynamic growth GW has been undergoing, and will surely continue to undergo, makes the University an exciting prospect for a lawyer who loves to grapple with complex legal problems,” Nolan said in a news release.
The Office of the Vice President and General Counsel is responsible for handling all legal issues as well as protecting and advocating for the University at large, according to the office’s Web site. Nolan will head the 21-member legal staff.
With GW being the largest private employer in the District, Nolan said the general counsel’s office handles a wide variety of legal issues, including real estate or employment matters for the University, as well as interactions with the D.C. and federal governments.
“Her first-hand knowledge of our University and her experience on our faculty is an added benefit,” Knapp said. “Her sense of the University – its mission, its history and the way it operates – wouldn’t be readily available to someone else.”
Knapp added that Nolan’s wide range of experience in both the public and private sectors qualify her for the job as vice president and general counsel.
In the Clinton administration, Nolan was a voice of opposition when the former president decided to issue a pardon to Mark Rich – a commodities trader who was prosecuted for tax evasion and illegally dealing with Iranian officials during the Iran-Contra affair.
Nolan also wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post in March, lambasting the Bush administration for taking executive privilege too far in not allowing aides to testify after the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
An internal search committee and outside consultants have been searching for a new University vice president and general counsel, Knapp said. Though he was not at GW when the search began in the spring, Knapp did have the opportunity to interview the nine finalists for the position.
From Aug. 1999 to Jan. 2001, Nolan was the White House counsel in the Clinton administration, where she directly advised the president and managed a staff of lawyers. Prior to that position, Nolan served as the associate counsel to the president from February 1993 to July 1995.
“Working with various components of the White House and government agencies is a lot like working with the various groups on campus and across the community,” Nolan said. “(The White House counsel) was a job that was driven by what happened that day and where people needed you. You had to be pretty flexible and like getting surprises.”
Until Nolan officially assumes her new position at GW on Dec. 3, she will be meeting with University staff to familiarize herself with the happenings of her new office. Nolan said she is speaking with William F. Howard, the interim vice president and general counsel, on a regular basis.
“I think it’s clear from her record as a full-time professor and from her number of professional positions that she is highly adept at dealing with breaking issues,” Howard said. “She knows how Washington works.”
While GW has changed greatly since Nolan’s absence from campus, she said she looks forward to having the GW faculty and staff help educate her.
In addition to Nolan’s role in the Clinton administration, she served as the deputy assistant attorney general in the office of legal counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice from 1996 to 1999. She was also recognized by fellow colleagues as one of “The Best Lawyers in America” this year for administrative law and commercial litigation.
As a law professor at GW, Nolan taught courses on constitutional law, government ethics and law, and professional responsibility and ethics, for about eight years. She received tenure in 1992.
Currently at Crowell & Moring LLP, Nolan assists with government and congressional investigations, she said in a phone interview. Additionally, she advises clients on different rules about political activity, lobbying and government ethics. She has been with the international law firm for about five and a half years.