Washington's Most Influential In-House Attorneys

The National Law Journal


The issues these top lawyers have handled range from the momentous, such as whether the United States should go to war, to the less serious (though still notable), such as how to draft multimillion-dollar contracts for pitching sensations. Some on The National Law Journal's list of 20 in-house counsel oversee huge operations — including one responsible for 10,000 lawyers. Others are joined by just a few attorneys and work mostly on regional issues. One thing each has in common: They've dedicated themselves to running efficient offices and to providing top-quality ­service to their clients. They're legal generalists by necessity, a feature of the job they love. "That's the challenge of the work, and the best part of my work," said one. "My day is never the same."


Terrence B. Adamson
National Geographic Society

The global reach of the National Geographic Society has become so strong, Terry Adamson says, that some have suggested the 124-year-old organization be renamed the International Geographic Society.

No way, said Adamson, the society's executive vice president and chief legal officer. "We'll stay with our trademark and our yellow border," he said, referring to the yellow rectangle that frames the cover of every month's magazine, now available around the world in 34 languages. (It just won the top award from the American Society of Magazine Editors.)

Preserving that mark and one of the world's most recognizable publishing brands is one of the top responsibilities of Adamson and his 11-lawyer legal staff. And their success at doing so has helped the society extend the brand to every imaginable media platform, including the National Geographic Channel on television, and popular applications for iPads and other tablet devices.

In 2008, after more than a decade of litigation, the society defeated copyright claims by freelancers that hampered sales of the magazine's digital archives on DVD and CD-ROM. Since then, many major publications have begun marketing similar archives. "That was one case where we were out front for the entire industry," Adamson said.

Adamson has one other client besides the society: former President Jimmy Carter, a friend for four decades. A former reporter in Atlanta, Adamson served in the Carter Justice Department as chief spokesman and now is on the board of the Carter Center. "It's a labor of love," Adamson said.— Tony Mauro

Robert Bostrom
Freddie Mac

Robert Bostrom's job was complicated enough when he took it in 2006. Back then, he left Winston & Strawn's New York office, where he had been managing partner, to become general counsel of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., the McLean, Va.-based giant better known as Freddie Mac. Two years later, the bottom fell out of the mortgage market, and Bostrom, along with outside counsel, was negotiating with the U.S. Treasury Department on a plan for a federal takeover of the company.

The long-term futures of Freddie Mac and its sibling, Fannie Mae, are still up to Congress and the White House, but Bostrom survived and leads a shop of 105 lawyers. His priority is responding to the continuing challenges of the mortgage market on Freddie Mac's business, but his office also assists the Obama administration with its mortgage-modification program and must respond to frequent requests for information from congressional committees and elsewhere. "It's the old job, plus these big new buckets that are extraordinarily demanding," Bostrom said.

Because Freddie Mac is under conservatorship, its regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, is following its actions very closely. Bostrom, 58, calls the arrangement unique but cooperative, as the lawyers have had to work together to ensure the company's management has the authority it needs to operate.

"We're in effect making law every day," he said.— David Ingram

Bruce Campbell
Discovery Communications Inc.

In the nation's early days, ambitious youths were told, "Go West." For the ambitious corporation today, the message may well be, "Go International."

Bruce Campbell, chief development officer and general counsel of Discovery Communications Inc., said the globe is his current frontier.

"When I think about deal work and strategy work, international is really the theme of the day for us," said Campbell, previously president of Discovery's Digital Media and Corporate Development.

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