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Hill Climbers: Once A Lawyer

Whether it was working for a private law practice or for a Congressional committee, William O’Reilly always knew he was going to be a lawyer. He even has proof, in the form of a note that he wrote when he was only about 10 years old.

“On a little piece of paper, I wrote that I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up,” he said. “My father used to carry it around in his wallet.”

O’Reilly still has the note, but he has it at home, tucked away for safekeeping.

“It’s pretty faded and tattered at this point,” he said.

O’Reilly, 50, did fulfill his dream. In fact, he’s been a lawyer for more than 20 years. [IMGCAP(1)]

Until August, O’Reilly worked as chief counsel and staff director for the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. He was involved with oversight, staff management and giving ethics advice to Members and staff.

After a little more than two years on the Hill, however, he decided to return to work for his former employer, the law firm Jones Day, which he calls his “professional home.” He had worked for the firm for 20 years before going to the Hill and returned there in mid- October to work on commercial and civil litigation, as well as antitrust litigation and corporate investigations.

“They weren’t that different in terms of my role as a lawyer,” O’Reilly said of his jobs with Jones Day and with the ethics panel. His work for the committee was “enjoyable and rewarding,” he said, but he felt the time was right to move back to private practice.

He said he had always left open the option of returning to private practice because that work “has always been a draw for me.” During his time on the Hill, he said, the ethics committee had made significant achievements, including the creation of a new Ethics Manual, a revamped Web site and an ethics training program for House staff. Because he had been there for those achievements, he felt it was an appropriate time to return to Jones Day.

O’Reilly received his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1986. He also earned his undergraduate degree in psychology from UVA in 1980.

O’Reilly’s inspiration came from his father’s work as a government lawyer in Washington, including with the Department of Agriculture’s former Rural Electrification Administration (now the Rural Utilities Service) and with the General Services Administration, before he also turned to private practice.

“I sort of grew up with his influence,” he said. His father’s evident love for his work was “infectious,” he added.

“He was very proud of the government for the time he worked there,” O’Reilly recalled.

Aside from his love of the law, O’Reilly is also a runner, and he once ran the Marine Corps Marathon in less than five hours. He also enjoys traveling, particularly to Cape Cod with his family. He and his wife have been married for 16 years and have two daughters.

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