Former Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno will rejoin the private sector as a partner at Roseland-based Connell Foley LLP, she told ROI-NJ.
Guadagno said she will be practicing out of the firm’s Jersey City office and will be focused on corporate and business law, white collar criminal defense, commercial litigation and corporate compliance and internal investigations.
The firm is scheduled to make an official announcement Thursday morning.
“I’m looking forward to being back in the courtroom and trying cases,” Guadagno told ROI-NJ.
The move is not a drastic change for Guadagno, who spent a good portion of her career in the legal sphere before jumping into public service.
“I’ve always been involved in the law, whether it was white collar crime investigations in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, or in private practice when I did corporate compliance,” she said. “And when I was lieutenant governor, it was a lot of the same thing.”
Going back to practicing law was just one of many options she had after her term as lieutenant governor ended in January, she said.
“I had a number of options — and I’m glad I had time to think about it — in public service, law enforcement, economic development,” she said. “But when you sit down and talk to the people at Connell Foley, you find out, especially if you love the law like I do, that there was really no debate. To go to a firm and work in Jersey City and have access to the wealth of knowledge my partners will have and the associates will have … I just couldn’t pass it up.
“I’ve never been a partner at a law firm, so that’s a first for me.”
Connell Foley Managing Partner Philip F. McGovern Jr. said the firm is excited to have Guadagno join them.
“Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is an outstanding addition to Connell Foley,” he said in a statement. “Kim is a person of exceptional substance and character. Her breadth of knowledge and experience as New Jersey’s first lieutenant governor, combined with her passionate advocacy for businesses make her an invaluable member of our firm.
“Moreover, her years and results achieved as a federal and state prosecutor speak volumes about her legal ability. We are honored by her decision to join Connell Foley.”
Guadagno she was looking forward to going back to work, noting she does not have a government pension, despite having several roles over the years in public offices and positions.
“I wish I had a pension, but I do not have a pension,” she said. “I look (forward) to working for two reasons: I have to pay the bills. I have a husband and a 17-year-old son at home, so I have to pay the bills. But also because I love practicing law.
“On many occasions when I spoke, not just to women’s groups but to young people, I said the following: Get the best possible education you can, do what you love to do and, when the opportunity comes, serve in politics and public service. And when you’re done, go back to doing what you loved in the first place, which is, in my case, the law, which is just what is happening now.”
Guadagno does have extensive legal experience.
After graduating cum laude from American University, Washington College of Law, she clerked for Henry F. Werker and Kevin T. Duffy in the United States District Court in the Southern District of New York. Following her clerkships, she spent five years at a private practice in New York City until she began her public service career as a federal prosecutor with the Organized Crime and Racketeering Strike Force in Brooklyn, New York.
From 1990-98, Guadagno served as an assistant United States attorney, holding various positions, including deputy chief of the corruption unit. Twice during her time as a federal prosecutor, she was the recipient of the U.S. Department of Justice Director’s Award, the nation’s highest honor for superior performance.
Guadagno spent eight years as New Jersey’s 33rd Secretary of State and first lieutenant governor, building a reputation of championing business growth and economic development in the state.
During that time, she interacted with a number of businesses, one of which was Connell Foley — and specifically, McGovern, who is on the board of Choose New Jersey, and Nevins McCann, the co-chair of Connell Foley’s Real Estate and Land Use Practice Group.
Their interactions during Guadagno’s time in office helped bring her to Connell Foley and its office in Jersey City.
“Jersey City is where the action is and I wanted to be close to Phil McGovern and Nevins McCann,” she said. “I ran into Nevins over the years when we did business development in Jersey City, that’s how I got to know him. And when we did the President’s Cup, I was the head of travel and tourism, and he was working with Liberty National Golf Club to bring the President’s Cup to Liberty National Park and that area.
“I just got to know them as people and as friends. Phil is on Choose New Jersey, so he’s a part of that group too. It’s just a good fit.”
Guadagno said her primary goal will be to bring her knowledge of how New Jersey works to the law firm to benefit its existing clients.
Guadagno, who lost the race for governor last November, said she does not agree with all of Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposals. But she did have a few kind words regarding some of Murphy’s economic development moves.
“I’m very pleased to see the current administration kept the economic development model that we actually developed,” she said. “Gov. Murphy saw how beneficial it was to attracting businesses to the state, so he’s kept Choose New Jersey, a 501(c)(3) organization, and kept (the) Business Action Center (of which Guadagno was a founding member).
“I’m thrilled to see Melanie (Willoughby) take over. And I was thrilled to see (the governor) kept that business model because it doesn’t cost the taxpayers money to attract businesses.”
That being said, of course, she does have some criticisms.
“Do I agree with everything the governor is doing? Of course not, I ran against him,” Guadagno said. “But he’s doing what he promised to do.
“He promised to raise taxes on the most taxed people in the country — we’ll see how that plays out as time goes on. But how that relates to my job at Connell Foley is very different. That’s more the politics of the day; I’m going to be focused on the business of the day.”
And, yes, she is keeping her cell phone number, 609-575-8111, in case you didn’t already have it.
“I mean, why wouldn’t you after all these years?” she said. “And, besides, can you imagine the kind of phone calls that whoever gets that phone number would get.
“People still call me today, and I want that to continue. That’s good for Connell Foley, and it’s certainly good for keeping consistency.”