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Audrey Strauss and Cyrus Vance Rejoin Private Practice

Jason Szenes/EPA, via Shutterstock
Jennah Moon/Reuters

Audrey Strauss and Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., two prosecutors in New York whose offices have tangled with former President Donald J. Trump, are heading back to private legal practice.

Ms. Strauss, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who ascended to that post after the tumultuous 2020 firing of her predecessor, Geoffrey Berman, is rejoining Fried Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson as a senior counsel in the firm’s white-collar practice, which she led from 1995 to 2012. She stepped down as U.S. attorney in October after Damian Williams, President Biden’s nominee, was sworn in.

With her return to Fried Frank, the firm has effectively recreated the Southern District’s recent front office: Mr. Berman arrived in December 2020 to lead its white-collar practice; and Ilan Graff, the deputy U.S. attorney under Ms. Strauss, joined the firm as a partner this month.

Ms. Strauss, 74, said in a statement that she was excited to be “rejoining my former partners and friends in the firm, as well as my recent colleagues from the U.S. attorney’s office.” Mr. Berman said Ms. Strauss was “widely admired as one of the legal community’s wisest and most effective counselors and advocates.”

In January 2018, Mr. Berman, after being appointed by the Trump administration to lead the Southern District, named Ms. Strauss as his senior counsel, and she later became his deputy. Ms. Strauss, known for her understated style, was forced into the spotlight in June 2020 when William P. Barr, then the attorney general, sought to replace Mr. Berman with a Trump administration ally.

After Mr. Berman initially refused to step down, Mr. Trump ended up firing him, leaving Ms. Strauss as the acting U.S. attorney — only the second woman to lead the storied office in its more than 230-year history. The judges of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan later exercised a rarely used power to formally appoint her to the post, extending her tenure.

During her time as U.S. attorney, Ms. Strauss announced the indictments of prominent defendants like Ghislaine Maxwell, the former companion of Jeffrey Epstein, who was convicted of sex trafficking in December; and Steve Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist, who was charged with misusing funds. (Mr. Trump later pardoned Mr. Bannon.)

Mr. Vance, the former Manhattan district attorney, began a new job on Monday as a partner at the law firm Baker McKenzie, leading its global cybersecurity practice.

“This moment of intense interest in cybersecurity” heightened Mr. Vance’s already considerable concerns, he said in an interview. As Manhattan’s chief prosecutor for more than a decade, Mr. Vance, 67, saw how technological developments can create new threats.

Rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine have raised the specter of ransomware attacks worldwide. “Tension between countries can lead to attacks by state actors against individuals and to businesses in other jurisdictions,” he said. “We have a much broader range of threat actors and sectors because we have high value, high dollar targets for ransomware.”

“To say this is top of mind for our clients is an understatement,” said Colin Murray, the chief executive of Baker McKenzie North America. In a recent survey of business leaders by the firm, about 80 percent said cybersecurity risk was a primary concern. “When facing attacks to infrastructure, coordination with the government is critically important to catch the bad guys,” he said. “Cy has a tremendous amount of experience in that area, having founded the Manhattan D.A.’s cyber unit.”

Mr. Vance declined to seek re-election after three terms as district attorney, handing over a long-running criminal investigation into Mr. Trump and his family business to his successor, Alvin Bragg, at the start of the year. The investigation is looking into whether the value of some hotels, golf clubs and office buildings were inflated to secure financing from potential lenders, The New York Times has reported. The inquiry could result in the first indictment of an American president in history.

During his time as Manhattan district attorney, Mr. Vance also prosecuted the movie producer Harvey Weinstein, who was found guilty of two felony sex crimes in 2020.

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