Alumni Spotlight: From GDC to the FCC
Tom Johnson, General Counsel, Federal Communications Commission
Washington, D.C. Litigation Associate 2006 - 2016

Q: What drew you to your current position? Were you always interested in working in government?
Public service has always attracted me, so when I was offered the opportunity to serve as General Counsel at the FCC, I felt I couldn't pass it by. The United States is in a global race right now to develop and deploy next-generation wireless technology, which has the potential to revolutionize the world--from drone technology to telemedicine to driverless cars. The FCC, led by Chairman Pai, is on the front lines of modernizing and streamlining regulations to help foster the investment and innovation we'll need to succeed. It's an honor to serve as the Commission's chief legal officer at this historic moment.

Q. What does a typical day look like for you?
I divide my time between two principal areas--legal review of upcoming rules that are voted at the Commission's monthly "open meetings" and oversight of Commission litigation in the trial and appellate courts. There are also various other responsibilities that take up my time--from fraud and bankruptcy matters to merger review to public records requests to employment issues. In short, there is rarely a "typical" day but there is almost always an interesting day!

Q. What is the best and/or most rewarding part of your role?
As General Counsel, my role often involves making recommendations and judgment calls on the most pressing and difficult issues facing the agency. Part of that work involves hearing out advocates for different views both within and outside the agency. I feel most satisfied when I'm able to break a "logjam" to move the ball forward on an important item while ensuring that everyone with a stake in the outcome feels respected and has their voices heard.

Q. What advice do you have for attorneys interested in having a career like yours?
First, don't be afraid to take risks with your careers. That can be difficult, because attorneys are naturally a risk-averse bunch. But I don't think I would have been offered my current position if I hadn't taken a risk and spent a year out in West Virginia, where I argued seven appeals and gained valuable public-sector experience. Second, cultivate strong relationships and a reputation for excellence among your colleagues and peers, because they will often be in a position to recommend you (or not) for interesting opportunities as they arise.

Q. How did Gibson Dunn prepare you for your role?
From early on, Gibson taught me to take ownership of my matters and think creatively about how to best solve problems for clients, rather than only focusing narrowly on the task in front of me. That entrepreneurial spirit comes in handy in government service, where you often need to think holistically about how best to reach a particular outcome while balancing legal, practical, and policy considerations.

While I left Gibson, the firm never left me. As I edited briefs, I could still hear partners' voices in my head telling me what I needed to do to make them better. Gibson really instills in you that culture of excellence, and I try to carry that with me wherever I go.

Q. If you could choose a role outside of the law ---- any job in the world, what would it be?
I've always thought it would be fun to write historical fiction. I'm not quitting my day job yet.

Gibson Dunn Alumni Footprint Around the World

The Grubhub Victory: An Associate’s Perspective
Featuring Los Angeles Associate, Dhananjay Manthripragada
Gibson Dunn’s recent win for Grubhub is being described as a “gig economy milestone” and will have huge implications for other companies in the gig economy, including Uber, Lyft and others. In the ruling, a Northern District of California court held that the plaintiff, a driver who used the Grubhub app to perform deliveries, was an independent contractor and not a Grubhub employee.

Dhananjay (DJ) Manthripragada, a Los Angeles associate, called his experience on the case one of the most “challenging, fun, and rewarding” of his career. He highlighted the exceptional “strength and foundation” of the team, from being led by “top notch partners” to the “incredibly talented and diverse” group of associates. DJ found it “instrumental” that the associates “worked seamlessly together” and all assignments were carefully tailored to their strengths. As the lead associate, he was tasked with being the primary contact for opposing counsel and managing the day-to-day operations of the entire team. A “true highlight” was the opportunity to conduct the direct and cross examinations of witnesses, which was ultimately featured in Law360. DJ recalled that a turning point in the case was when the team’s associates worked together to use data the plaintiff’s attorneys wanted produced to our benefit:
“We were able to paint the picture of the plaintiff’s day to day life by charting out the data, crunching numbers and producing heat maps to demonstrate the independence the plaintiff had while working for Grubhub.” DJ noticed that the judge was “so keyed in” to this part of their presentation and knew the Gibson Dunn team had “struck the right chord.” DJ and the Gibson Dunn team were “ecstatic” about the full victory given the uncertainty in this emerging area of law. “We had confidence going in,” he said, but the team was “battling a difficult question, with no obvious answer.”
"Our goal was to put on the best case we possibly could, and our team was amazing from start to finish. DJ did a great job with the witnesses – head and shoulders above the senior lawyer on the other side."

          – Michele Maryott
             Partner, Orange County
The most rewarding part of working on the case according to DJ was “bringing home a win” for Grubhub, who had become friends as well as a clients. “Their business model was under attack” and with this victory, “we set the tone” for individual contractor classification cases going forward.

Notes on Gibson Dunn’s Art Collection

Street Scenes 2012
Gugger Petter

Located in the New York office’s reception area, this large “painting” is called “Street Scenes 2012” and perfectly captures the theme and vibe of urban life in the boroughs of New York. The word “painting” is in quotes as it is really a weaving composed of tubes of rolled up newspaper print (sometimes painted and sometimes left the color when used as a newspaper) which creates a three dimensional mosaic effect. This is a unique artistic style, but part of a larger current art movement of taking the ordinary materials of human life and recycling them in creative ways. The artist’s work is featured in a number of museums, but she gained a certain celebrity when she was commissioned to create a portrait of Barrack Obama that would hang in his campaign headquarters in Chicago. Another fun fact is that if you find yourself shopping in a Nordstrom shoe department, you may see a similar piece of artwork!

– Ken Anderson, Retired Los Angeles
Litigation Partner and firm’s Art Curator

Un-Wined with Bob Montgomery
Retired Century City Corporate Partner and Owner of Montgomery Vineyards

Sunny spring weather has yet to reach many of us, so we are in search of hearty wines and cheeses with which to help enjoy the brisk weather. Red wines, of course, are the strong favorites for chilly spring weather, and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons and Italian Barolos showcase outstanding red wines with depth, intensity and structure to enjoy during the evening, especially when served with full-flavored cheeses as their companions.

Three semi-firm cheeses are special favorites:

Gruyere, sometimes referred to as the king of Alpine cheeses, is a rich, Swiss favorite with an incredible nuttiness that is hard to resist. Tiny crystals in the cheese give it a wonderful crunchiness.

Pilota comes from the Basque region of France and is especially savory with a slight tanginess in the finish.

Midnight Moon is an aged goat cheese from Holland that exhibits a kind of tangy, grassy tartness.

All three cheeses not only stand up well to big red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Barolo, but they actually enhance the flavors of the wines with which they are paired. Who needs crackers?? A hunk of one of these cheeses and a glass of good red wine and you are good to go!!

Kate Dowd May Kate Dowd May
Career Development
& Alumni Manager
We are excited to connect with you at an event or via email or telephone as you look to advance your career. As the firm continues to develop its alumni efforts, please do not hesitate to reach out to Kate Dowd May directly with any suggestions on how our program can become a valuable part of your professional life.

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