Robert S. Mueller, III, the WilmerHale partner and one of the nation’s best-known lawyers for his high-profile public service as well as work in private practice, was recognized by The American Lawyer as a recipient of the publication’s highest honor, its 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Mr. Mueller, whose most recent public service was as special counsel for the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, also was the second-longest serving director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Further, he is the only director to have been named to that position by two different presidents and to have Congress unanimously vote to extend his statutory tenure.
A profile in the publication’s December issue, describes how Mr. Mueller’s decades of public service began when, as a new Princeton University graduate, he entered the US Marine Corps and led troops in combat in Vietnam where he was wounded by enemy fire. He received Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals, among other recognitions.
From the article:
“The bedrock for me was the Marine Corps,” Mueller says. “It taught me three different qualities—teamwork, sacrifice, discipline… You can put those attributes to use, and I try to do so in my day-in and day-out work as a lawyer.”
Partner James Quarles built on the theme of how Mr. Mueller, his long-time friend and colleague, was profoundly shaped by his military experience.
When working with Mueller, whether going up against the “cream of the plaintiffs bar” in the Volkswagen case or investigating the president’s associates in the Special Counsel’s Office, Quarles says Mueller values a collaborative and team-based approach—a philosophy he adopted after leading a platoon in the Vietnam War.
“Don’t ever send him a memo where you use the word ‘I.’ Whenever he speaks or he’s talking about what happened he always talks about the team and ‘we,’” Quarles says. “One of the things he learned early is you better have a team that likes you and respects you. And the biggest way to do that is to put the team first. He’ll tell the story about how in the Marines, the platoon leader would always eat last to make sure everybody else got fed first.”
The profile touches on some key highlights from Mr. Mueller’s long, distinguished and often newsworthy legal career:
While Mueller may be best-known these days for his role as special counsel, his nearly 50-year career as both a public and private attorney stands on its own merits.
As a government attorney, Mueller oversaw the successful prosecutions of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and crime boss John Gotti, as well as the investigation of the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103.
As a leader, Mueller leaves an indelible impact on those who work with him, says Lisa Monaco, a partner at O’Melveny & Myers who formerly served as chief of staff for Mueller at the FBI.
“There’s nobody that has a truer compass and is a better leader. He’s somebody who I learned a great deal from about being a leader with integrity and commitment to public service and doing the right thing no matter the personal cost,” Monaco says.
As a private attorney, Mueller handled the expansive investigation into the NFL’s handling of former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice’s domestic abuse scandal. And in 2016, he was appointed to negotiate the multibillion-dollar settlement between automaker Volkswagen and hundreds of plaintiffs in the high-profile diesel emissions scandal. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, who appointed Mueller, said at the time that there are “few, if any, people with more integrity, good judgment, and relevant experience” than Mueller.
Mr. Mueller will be recognized, along with other recipients of The American Lawyer’s lifetime achievement award, at a virtual event on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021.