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Hill Climbers: Offering Counsel

If you spend enough time in Washington, you will begin to realize just how diverse the city truly is. People might be drawn to the District for a similar reason — the opportunity to make a difference — but digging deeper shows richness in the experiences that people bring with them.

[IMGCAP(1)]Take, for instance, Ariel Waldman, who was recently hired as assistant counsel in the House Office of General Counsel. While just a teenager in 1966, Waldman’s father came to the U.S. from the Soviet Union.

“I suppose it was a pretty normal experience for the child of an immigrant,— he said. “We helped out other families my dad knew who had come from the Soviet Union. Maybe my dad’s patriotism was more intense than most people’s because he had grown up somewhere that didn’t have a lot of the freedoms we take essentially for granted in the United States.—

Waldman, 34, began at the Office of General Counsel in July, drawn to leave the private sector after five years. “What attracted me was the opportunity to

work in public service on the array of interesting issues that the Office of General Counsel handles — in an environment of really smart people with a sense of humor and perspective,— Waldman said.

The Office of General Counsel provides legal advice to Members and committees on a range of issues. Waldman’s initial responsibilities have included representing the House Judiciary Committee in its legal entanglements with former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former White House adviser Karl Rove over U.S. attorney firings during the Bush administration. Waldman has also represented Congressional staffers in the criminal trial of former Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.).

[IMGCAP(2)]Waldman’s first experience on the Hill goes back to an internship. A native of Westport, Conn., Waldman interned with then-Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) while he was an undergraduate at Northwestern University.

After graduating from Northwestern in 1996 with a degree in social policy, Waldman worked briefly before enrolling in the University of Chicago, where he earned a J.D. in 2001.

Waldman chalks up the desire to be a lawyer to the earlier generation in his family. “My grandfather on my mom’s side, Albert Walder, after becoming the first person in my family to go to college, became a lawyer.— Waldman said. “I have his diploma, awarded in 1927, hanging in my office.—

Although Waldman’s lawyerly abilities might not be directly attributable to his parents, he is certainly a chip off the block when it comes to his hobbies. Waldman’s mother, Cathy Waldman, is a composer and a pianist while his father, Yuval Waldman, is a classical violinist and conductor. Waldman, a tenor, sings in the in the D.C. community choir Congressional Chorus, a group that specializes in American choral music.

“The chorus is a great change of pace in my week and a nice chance to use different parts of my brain,— he said.

When it comes to his other hobby, pickup basketball, Waldman said his skills tend to be more limited. “I am a 5-foot-6-inch point guard with no jumping ability and not much more of a jump shot,— he said.

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