Skadden Arps partner Margaret E. Krawiec discusses her beginning career at the U.S. Department of Justice, work involvement for the UN Oil-for-Food Programme and her two life passions; law and soccer.
Name: Margaret E. Krawiec
Practice Areas: Litigation
Location: Washington, D.C.
Law School: J.D., Loyola University of Chicago School of Law, 1998 (cum laude; Editor in Chief, Law Review)
Undergraduate: B.A., Santa Clara University, 1995 (magna cum laude)
Quotable, on advice to first year lawyers: “As a young lawyer, completely immerse yourelf in your work. Agree to take on any case, regardless of how daunting a challenge. Be willing to travel to any part of the world as you never know how rewarding the experience will be.”
Lawdragon: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve done as a lawyer?
Margaret Krawiec: It is a tie between representing a client in a series of government investigations into allegations of misconduct occurring under the United Nations Oil-For-Food Programme and cases I handled at the U.S. Department of Justice relating to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s use of Whitey Bugler and Stephen Flemmi, two Boston-based mafia members, as top echelon informants.
The work I did in connection to the UN Oil-for-Food Programme involved handling simultaneous investigations by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, multiple congressional committees and the UN’s Independent Inquiry Committee headed by Paul Volcker. It was the most challenging case I have handled thus far in my career. But my single most memorable experience occurred when I worked at DOJ and had the opportunity to depose Frank “the Cadillac” Salemme, a former New England La Cosa Nostra mafia boss just before he was placed into witness protection.
LD: How has your practice changed since the early part of your career?
MK: After clerking, I began my career at the DOJ where I was a trial attorney involved in very traditional civil litigation. From the DOJ, I came to Skadden where I began focusing on government investigations. Specifically, shortly after starting at Skadden, I had the opportunity to work with Robert Bennett and Alan Kriegel on the UN Oil-For-Food Programme investigations. It was my first look into the challenging world of government investigations and, in particular, congressional investigations. Since that experience, although I am still able to handle a wide array of litigation matters, my practice has focused on representing clients in investigations brought by congressional oversight committees.
LD: Why did you pursue a career in the law?
MK: My parents immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe. They were both huge believers in education and the opportunities that it brings. In this regard, going to graduate school after college was a must in my family. My sister went to medical school, my brother went to business school, and I went to law school. I really knew from a young age that I wanted to be a lawyer. I have always loved the power of persuasive speech. Further, I love that, as a lawyer, I am able to craft creative solutions for clients that often are not based upon past precedent.
LD: What advice do you have for law students and lawyers who are just beginning their careers?
MK: As a young lawyer, completely immerse yourself in your work. Agree to take on any case, regardless of how daunting a challenge. Be willing to travel to any part of the world as you never know how rewarding the experience will be. When conducting a government investigation or handling traditional litigation, explore every angle and pursue every legal argument — you never know what amazing new lead that extra effort might uncover. Finally, never feel constrained by your age — you do not need to have white hair to be successful or to be taken seriously.
LD: Is there anything in particular that happened early in your career that you consider key to your success?
MK: My decision to begin my legal career at the DOJ has been key to my success because it gave me the opportunity to serve as the lead attorney on a number of significant cases despite being straight out of law school. Although it was overwhelming at the beginning, it forced me to take on a tremendous amount of responsibility as a young lawyer, which in turn gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities.
LD: What do you do for fun when you’re outside the office?
MK: Run and chase after my children! There is nothing better than going out for a long run. And my love of running has helped me keep up with my children — I have a four-year-old, a two-year-old and a four-month-old, so it would be an understatement to say that my life is busy these days.
LD: If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you do professionally?
MK: I would most likely be a women’s college soccer coach. I played Division I soccer at Santa Clara University and am still very passionate about the sport. When I graduated college, the only real opportunity to play professionally was somewhere abroad, as a U.S. professional women’s league did not yet exist. Instead of trying to play for a Japanese or European team — which I seriously considered — I decided to go to law school. I knew that playing overseas would only delay my dream of becoming a lawyer.
I love the confidence, drive and discipline the sport has given me. These character traits help me in all aspects of my life. Being a coach and helping women to develop these attributes through the game of soccer would be very rewarding.
LD: Who were your childhood heroes?
MK: Hands down, my number one childhood hero was Stefi Graff. I was a total jock and thought that the only thing that mattered in life was playing soccer. Back then, little girls did not have the amazing soccer role models that they have now. The most visible female athlete when I was growing up was Graf. She was not only an amazing tennis player, winning 22 grand slam tournaments, but she also always handled herself with such grace. She was humble and clearly loved her sport to which she dedicated her life. I still think of her and these traits when I consider how I practice law and how I want to be viewed by my legal colleagues.