Jeannie Rhee is a dynamic litigator and former prosecutor with extensive trial and investigations experience. Based in Paul Weiss's DC office, she leads significant civil, white collar and regulatory matters, oversees sensitive internal investigations and advises clients on threatening cybersecurity and data privacy matters, successfully keeping clients out of the public eye. She recently spoke with Benchmark editor Michael Rafalowich about these and a variety of other topics.




You worked both in government and in private practice at another major high- ranking firm with a strong and vibrant litigation and white-collar practice. What attracted you to Paul, Weiss?

During the course of my work on the Mueller investigation, I came into contact with hundreds of represented parties and saw the best of the best. It gave me a unique perspective and Paul, Weiss stood out. The firm strikes the right balance between its exceptional litigation and vibrant corporate practices—a necessary synergy for the type of controversy and disputes practice that I have. And within the litigation department, Paul, Weiss’s collaborative approach gives me the opportunity to work across my areas of expertise and pair up with my brilliant partners rather than be artificially siloed. The caliber of Paul, Weiss’s clients is so stellar; I was drawn to the opportunity to help industry leaders facing business-threatening situations.

I knew that Paul, Weiss was the place I wanted to be. So rather than rely on the usual headhunting process followed by most attorneys leaving government posts, I proactively chose Paul, Weiss—I reached out directly to our chairman Brad Karp at the end of the Mueller investigation and asked to meet. I made my case to him and the rest is history.


Due to the nature of your practice, I’m sure much of your work is confidential. Are there any public milestone achievements that you’d care to expound upon?

It’s true that most of my cases are confidential, but I’ve been honored to carry on Paul, Weiss’s longstanding tradition of taking on high-impact pro bono litigation, and that has been very public. My focus has been on groundbreaking cases seeking to hold hate groups financially accountable for racist and extremist violence.

In June, we won a landmark $1 million judgment on behalf of Washington, D.C.’s iconic Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in its suit against the extremist group the Proud Boys and its leadership for their violent attack and destruction of property in December 2020. The settlement that we achieved on behalf of the church is a real testament not just to the litigation team, which I’m so proud be a part of, but really to the whole firm. Not many firms would take on a lawsuit like this or invest the resources and stake out that position in the fraught cultural moment we’re in. We’re also currently representing the D.C. Attorney General in the District’s related and ongoing suit against the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers for their role in planning and carrying out the deadly January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.


How much of your caseload actually finds its way to a full trial?

I’m not at all afraid to go to trial—and in fact, I relish the challenge—but far more often than not, a trial—and the spotlight it represents—is not in my clients’ interest. In a controversies practice like mine, trials are incredibly rare, although sometimes unavoidable. But my clients usually don’t have complaints ever filed against them or have to suffer a public airing of whatever it is that they are handling privately. For most clients, this is the greatest achievement of all. And it’s been very gratifying to have clients that trust me and return to me again and again over the years if and when problems arise.


Your role in the Mueller investigation seems like an obvious career highlight and virtually unavoidable topic. Did you care to address any specifics about this engagement that were particularly noteworthy, such as the caselaw, media coverage or the sociopolitical gravity?

We began the Mueller investigation in 2017, which feels like not that long ago but also like a million years ago. In that moment in time, there had been a fallow period where there had been no independent or special counsel.

Our investigation was a singular moment in history that felt so fraught and consequential. Literally everything we were doing was subject to unbelievably intense scrutiny. Fast forward five years, and there are now multiple special counsel and even special counsel investigating special counsel. We’re also heading towards another election cycle where the players are familiar, so past is prologue. It’s amazing just how quickly the pace of historical events now confronts us.

I look at what Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team members are doing in their investigations into former President Trump’s handling of classified documents and Trump’s attempts to stop President Biden from assuming office, and am hopeful that they have benefitted from lessons learned, both positive and negative, from our investigation.


You are a key member of the firm’s Congressional investigations practice. What are your observations about this practice, and what distinguishes Paul Weiss in this area?

What distinguishes Paul, Weiss’s Congressional Investigations practice is what distinguishes all of our practices: our team is highly integrated and lean. Although our group does a lot of work in the Congressional investigations space, none of us devotes ourselves to it exclusively; this actually advantages our clients and is a real market differentiator.

Investigations are rarely standalone matters; they come against the backdrop of a host of other legal and reputational challenges. Our Litigation Department’s range of capabilities, whether in cybersecurity, antitrust, tech, financial services or other areas, keeps us sharp and positions us to better confront these multipronged matters and leverage a 360-degree perspective. Our integrated approach allows us to tackle complex matters from all angles with agility.

And of course, we have a formidable, deep bench of former government officials who have extensive experience and familiarity with the culture, protocol and investigative staff of key committees and subcommittees. This enables us to craft strategies with the political climate and media and other strategic concerns in mind.


You have a niche in cybersecurity and data security, areas that have quickly blossomed from burgeoning to front-and-center. What are some of the more recent trends and/or developments in these capacities?

I co-chair Paul, Weiss’s Cybersecurity & Data Protection group alongside John Carlin, who was previously Acting Deputy U.S. Attorney General and really has his finger on the pulse of the government’s attitudes to cybersecurity. What we’re most interested in on the cybersecurity and data protection fronts are the cutting-edge, hard issues, and always being able to anticipate what’s around the corner.

For example, cyber adversaries to our national security have become extremely sophisticated, to the point where they can infiltrate the files of specific government officials and leave no known footprint.

Sophisticated hacks and attacks have always existed, but were largely kept classified and did not appear in the news. Today, however, we’re in an era of increased governmental and regulatory scrutiny and enforcement, which has created a target-rich environment.

There’s an inherent tension between the government and corporate clients on issues of cyber compliance and prevention. One part of the government says to corporate America, “we want to collaborate with you, because we understand that there is only so much corporations can do to prevent an attack.” Meanwhile, the other side of the government says that domestic policy imperatives and transparency obligations take precedence, and incentivizes corporations to be fully forthcoming about situations that may impact their business if made public. So it’s a whipsaw between the two approaches. Helping clients navigate this incredibly tricky situation is where Paul, Weiss adds a lot of value.


You also have sub-specialties in other areas, such as racial equality and other civil rights audits. How does this tie in with other parts of your practice?

There is a strong coherence to my practice: it’s all about getting ahead of and mitigating risk, whether through a robust internal investigation, a management change, a new compliance program or governance structure—they’re all of a piece.

Racial equity and other audits are not actually all that new; they are internal investigations through the current lens and focus on ESG-related priorities. Paul, Weiss has been able to mobilize quickly to fulfill a client need.

I’m grateful to have the privilege of working alongside former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch in creating our Civil Rights & Racial Equity Audit group, as she is a natural draw for corporate clients. Together we’ve built a thriving and growing practice.


Are there any other practitioners that you are particularly impressed by and would care to give a shout-out to? It would be especially interesting to hear about any other female practitioners, just due to the pertinence of Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation.

I’m thrilled to be listed alongside an incredibly impressive roster of women. Loretta Lynch is a dear friend and partner whose integrity and expertise in so many areas is remarkable. We also recently welcomed Katherine Forrest to the firm, and her deep knowledge of AI and other digital technology as it relates to the justice system is incredible and invaluable. Anne O’Leary at Jenner & Block is a longtime friend, political maven and all-around fabulous person who inspires me every day.



August 2023