Lawyer Limelight: Justin Shur

A former Justice Department prosecutor, Justin Shur has since built a top-tier practice in white collar defense and investigations. Since moving into private practice as a partner at MoloLamken, Shur has been at the forefront of some of the most headline-grabbing cases of our time, counseling clients who faced allegations stemming from various corporate and political scandals such as the Volkswagen emissions and Petrobras bribery schemes, the Mueller probe, and advising a State Department witness in Trump’s first impeachment hearing – to name just a few.

Through the contentious issues and intense media scrutiny, Shur keeps a steady and methodical approach, remaining ever-focused on laying out the facts clearly and simply, and building trust with the jury and the bar. 

Shur has also earned the coveted trust of the C-suite, being called in to handle multi-billion dollar suits and potential suits that often strike to the heart of their businesses – and successfully keeping them out of the courtroom. 

Lawdragon: What do you enjoy most about your practice?

Justin Shur: One of the things I really enjoy about my practice is the variety of cases and clients. 

I represent clients in a wide range of white-collar investigations and trials, often under intense media scrutiny. I also conduct internal investigations. And I represent both plaintiffs and defendants in high-stakes business disputes. 

My clients have included companies and organizations from all around the world and in virtually every industry. I’ve also represented individuals in a variety of different fields, including CEOs and other corporate executives, a U.S. Cabinet Secretary, an Ambassador to the United Nations, a real estate mogul, an NFL team physician, a tech entrepreneur, a fashion designer and an Academy Award-winning actor.  

I have been enormously fortunate to have clients, colleagues and friends who have put their trust and confidence in me to handle some of the most interesting and important matters.

LD: What types of matters are you currently working on?

JS: As always, it’s an interesting mix. For example, I currently represent the president of a global telecommunications company in a Justice Department investigation into foreign bribery allegations. I’m conducting an investigation for the Special Litigation Committee of Twitter’s Board of Directors into allegations made in a shareholder derivative suit challenging an activist investor settlement. I’m defending the CEO of a financial services firm in a civil suit for breach of fiduciary duty and self-dealing. I represent the chief compliance officer of a cryptocurrency company in connection with SEC and CFTC investigations. And I’m preparing for a federal jury trial where I’m defending a former senior Executive Branch official charged with making false statements and obstruction of justice. 

LD: You have successfully resolved white collar matters confidentially, persuading authorities not to bring charges against your clients. What do you view as the key to a successful presentation to the government?        

JS: Of course, each situation is unique and requires a tailored approach. Some presentations may be more focused on the facts, while others may be more focused on the law or the equities. Regardless, the key to any successful presentation to a prosecutor or regulator is credibility.

While I fiercely advocate on behalf of my clients, I do so without distorting the evidence or playing games. It’s really quite simple – if you make representations that turn out to be inaccurate or if you take positions that are not supported by the facts or the law, you’re not going to get a good reception. But if you have a reputation as someone whose word you can trust and you can credibly explain why charges should not be brought, they’re going to take your arguments seriously.

It’s also important for the government to understand that, if necessary, you’re ready for the fight. That you have the experience and fortitude to prevail at trial. 

LD: You’ve had great success defending clients in the courtroom. Can you tell us about one of your recent trials?

JS: Last month, I was proud to lead an incredible team in winning an acquittal for our client in a high-profile white collar jury trial. The case involved allegations of a wide-ranging conspiracy to violate federal campaign finance laws in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election. The allegations emerged from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Our client, the president of a luxury travel company, was accused of conspiring to make millions of dollars of illegal campaign contributions to back Hillary Clinton. In the end, the jury found our client not guilty of all charges. It was a complete victory. 

LD: What helped you obtain a favorable outcome in that case?

JS: For one thing, we had a simple, but compelling story that I believe resonated with the jury. A key issue at trial was whether our client was a true donor. The government claimed he wasn’t, arguing that as a first-time political donor he had no reason to make such a significant contribution to Secretary Clinton. But we had a persuasive counter-narrative. That our client contributed because he feared that Donald Trump’s promised ban on Muslim travel to the U.S. would devastate his travel business, which catered to wealthy travelers from Muslim countries visiting America. And we were able to prove it, by obtaining critical admissions through cross-examinations of the government’s own witnesses.

Another important factor was that we knew the evidence better than our opponents. The government, for example, alleged that our client had received money that had been earmarked for political contributions. In support of that theory, the government introduced thousands of pages of bank records from multiple accounts. However, by methodically walking the jury through those records in an easy-to-understand manner, we were able to disprove the government’s theory and show that our client had not received any of the funds at issue. Lawyers at trial are always competing for the jury’s trust and confidence. By demonstrating a superior command of the facts and the evidence, we were able to win that contest.

LD: You also represent clients in high profile congressional hearings. What is that like?  

JS: Testifying at a congressional hearing, for any client, can be a stressful, high-stakes performance. Facing hostile questions from members of congress is challenging enough, but to do so while sitting front and center in a crowded hearing room surrounded by press photographers and television cameras takes it to another level.

It’s also nothing like testifying at a deposition or trial. At their core, high-profile congressional hearings are political theater. Instead of asking questions, committee members often give fiery speeches vilifying the witness in order to play to the media and score political points. But through careful preparation, I’ve found clients can overcome this challenging environment and credibly communicate their key message with confidence.  

That was the case for a client I represented in what was probably the most highly publicized congressional hearing in recent years – the impeachment inquiry into President Trump stemming from allegations that he improperly withheld U.S. aid to Ukraine. In the days leading up to her testimony, President Trump, in a tweet, criticized the client – a career State Department official – and questioned her motives. As a result, overnight the client became a major figure in the hearing and, during her testimony, was subjected to partisan attacks. But by employing certain strategies, the client was able to stay above the fray and effectively deliver her testimony in a way that reflected positively on her. In fact, she was touted as one of the witnesses who “held her own,” earning her recognition as one of TIME’s Guardians of the Year.   

LD: Looking back, was there an early experience that was critical to your development as a lawyer? 

JS: One of the most critical lessons I learned early on is the power of effective storytelling. It’s a lesson I learned long before I started practicing or even went to law school. My father, who is a book publisher, taught me the power of stories. They have a unique ability to move people’s hearts and minds. A well-told story – whether through a novel or a jury address – allows you to convey facts in a memorable and meaningful way. And to motivate people to act. Finding a compelling story in your case and being able to effectively tell it was a valuable lesson I learned early on in my career, one that I carry with me today.