Preet Bharara, the former federal prosecutor, high-profile Donald Trump critic and host of a popular podcast, is joining WilmerHale, a well-connected law firm that has become home to a number of former government officials.
It will be Mr. Bharara’s first stint in private practice since the Trump administration fired him in 2017, after he refused to quit as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. During his more than seven years in the post, Mr. Bharara attracted headlines for a crackdown on insider trading on Wall Street and corruption in New York politics.
Mr. Bharara, 53, is joining Wilmer, which has about 1,000 lawyers, as a partner. He said in an interview that he envisioned his role less as one of representing clients in court and “much more so to be a person who advises executives and boards and companies how to do the right thing in the first place — and how to stay out of trouble.”
It will also be a lucrative move for Mr. Bharara. The firm does not disclose compensation figures, but a Wilmer partnership paid on average $2.8 million last year, according to The American Lawyer, a legal magazine.
Mr. Bharara said he expected his role to include a focus on issues of E.S.G., or environmental, social and governance. That area can include how companies treat employees, encourage diversity and equitable practices and battle climate change. E.S.G. has attracted some pushback, particularly from conservative activists who have derided it as “woke capitalism.”
But Mr. Bharara said corporate clients ignored E.S.G. at their peril. “Simple-minded criticism of this issue fails to appreciate its complexity and its emerging importance,” he said.
Debo P. Adegbile, who chairs Wilmer’s anti-discrimination practice, said boards and C-suite executives were now “having to think a little bit more deeply about how they’re steering the ship.”
“His previous role as sort of a sheriff of good government and the rule of law, I think, fits nicely into this moment,” Mr. Adegbile said.
Wilmer has been an active and lucrative passageway between Washington and Big Law. Some progressives have been critical of such moves. The firm has been home to Robert S. Mueller III, who returned after serving as the special counsel in the investigation of Russia’s 2016 election interference (he retired last year); Jamie S. Gorelick, a deputy attorney general in President Bill Clinton’s administration; Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary under President Biden; and Brendan R. McGuire, who in January became chief counsel to Mayor Eric Adams of New York City.
Since being fired, Mr. Bharara has hosted two weekly podcasts, including “Stay Tuned with Preet,” which examines issues of law and social justice. In addition, he and his brother built a podcast company, Cafe Studios, which Vox Media bought last year for an undisclosed amount. He’s also written a best seller, “Doing Justice,” about his tenure as U.S. attorney, appears on CNN as a legal analyst and teaches at New York University School of Law.
“Being the U.S. attorney, having been an entrepreneur and a businessman myself,” he said, “hopefully I’ll be in some position to counsel in a trusted way.”
Mr. Bharara said he had decided to join Wilmer because he had missed being a lawyer and addressing complicated legal problems. He said he was also attracted to Wilmer’s track record of pro bono work and that the firm would let him continue his podcasts and other outside activities.
Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.