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Legal Separation

Bob Bennett takes questions from reporters at the National Press Club in 2004. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

In Washington, there are big-shot lawyers...and then there are big-shot lawyers -- which is why the town was buzzing Thursday with news that arguably the biggest-shot of all is jumping firms.

In March 1998, Bob Bennett -- at right, who was then representing President Bill Clinton -- chats with Larry King, left, and Colin Powell before the Radio and TV Correspondents Association dinner. (James A. Parcell/The Washington Post)

Bob Bennett, who has represented almost every bold-faced name in legal peril from CIA interrogators to Bill Clinton, is leaving white-shoe Skadden Arps, where he has spent the past two decades, for Hogan & Hartson, where he started in private legal practice nearly 35 years ago, he confirmed to our colleague Carrie Johnson.

"You can go home again," Bennett, 70, told her from his office adorned with notes from clients like Cap Weinberger and Clark Clifford. Longtime partner and behind-the-scenes strategist Carl Rauh will go with him.

You don't have to be a legal groupie to know Bennett, the guy in the pinstripe suits and violet shirts of so many camera-trailed journeys along courthouse steps. He got reporter Judy Miller freed from jail during the Valerie Plame case, counseled John McCain and Paul Wolfowitz. Enron hired him in the throes of corporate scandal. He even helped Indy 500 victor Helio Castroneves beat tax charges.

Judith Miller and her lawyer, Bob Bennett, arrive at Federal Court in Washington on July 6, 2005 (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, Files)

"Hogan is lucky as hell to be getting them," said Larry Barcella, a former D.C. federal prosecutor who frequently bumps into them on hot criminal cases, lauding their ability to work "without a net on a stable of the highest visibility matters one could imagine."

Why move now? Said Bennett: "Hogan is a world-class firm. I have lots of friends over there ... Change is good." Skadden has lost several partners this year; managing partner Mike Naeve called the departure "amicable" but declined to discuss the reason for their move.

By The Reliable Source  |  September 4, 2009; 1:04 AM ET
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