Profiles in Public Interest: Leo Wise ’03 Is Taking Down Ken Lay


This article is the first in an occasional series profiling outstanding alumni in public interest law.

Job: Trial Attorney in the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice-Enron Task Force.

Prior jobs: Trial Attorney on the Tobacco Litigation Task Force. Joined the Justice Department through the Attorney General’s Honors Program in 2004. Clerked for the Honorable Jan E. DuBois of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

HLS resume: ABA Criminal Mock Trial Team, Government Lawyer course with clinical placement at the U.S. Attorney’s office, Perspectives in Prosecution course with clinical placement at the Boston Attorney General’s office. “I tried working on journals but didn’t like it- so if you don’t, its okay.”

The daily grind: As a member of the trial team prosecuting former Enron officials Kenneth Lay, Jeffrey Skilling, and Richard Causey, days are spent interviewing potential witnesses and preparing proof for trial in Houston in three months. (You read that right. Two years out of law school, Leo isn’t carrying anyone’s briefcase – he’s literally in court prosecuting Enron officials himself.)

Beyond doc review: Handled four witnesses in the racketeering trial of U.S. v. Philip Morris on his first year on the job. Prepared Dean Elena Kagan for her deposition in the case. Cross-examined the Dean of the University of Chicago Law School six months into his job as a trial attorney.

Money matters: Grateful for the assistance of LIPP, though now he makes enough through the DOJ that he is no longer eligible. Has a Heymann Fellowship, which helps. “It hasn’t been hard to start my career as a public interest lawyer. I think the much bigger challenge is how to stay in public interest 3-5 years out. The big financial issue for my wife (who works for a non-profit association) and me is how to afford a home and we haven’t figured it out yet.”

Leo’s advice for students: “Clinicals and associated classes can be a very important part of your education. At least as far as the Department of Justice is concerned, you can live on the salary, and the best part of the compensation package is what you get in terms of job satisfaction and experience.”

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