Tom Harrington: Former TELG Law Clerk Is Now a Principal of Firm

Posted on March 13, 2014

Tom HarringtonThe Employment Law Group® law firm has named John Thomas Harrington, Jr. as a principal.

The elevation of Mr. Harrington, known as Tom, is a milestone for one of Washington’s more unusual hiring models. TELG sidesteps the law-school recruitment mill, instead choosing entry-level lawyers exclusively from its pool of law clerks—all of whom, in turn, are hired while attending local law schools at night.

Mr. Harrington is the first such clerk to ascend to ownership at TELG, cementing the firm’s reputation as a nurturer of legal talent. He joined the firm in 2004 while attending the George Mason University School of Law as an evening student.

Also notable: Law is Mr. Harrington’s second full career; before attending law school he worked for 19 years as an analyst for the NASDAQ Stock Market. When TELG hired him as a student, he was older than the firm’s principals.

“We are honored that Tom has agreed to become our partner,” said R. Scott Oswald, managing principal of TELG. “He embodies our firm’s philosophy. We hire evening law students for their talent and motivation, then we promote them for their skill and devotion—with no limit to how far they may rise.”

As an attorney at TELG, Mr. Harrington has worked closely with clients who suffer workplace discrimination and retaliation in violation of civil rights laws. In addition, his financial background has helped him to represent employees who are punished for reporting breaches of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

As a principal Mr. Harrington will continue to litigate such cases, and also will take on new responsibilities. For instance, a lifelong interest in literature—his undergraduate major at the University of California, Los Angeles—will inform his efforts to develop the writing skills of TELG’s junior staff.

And he will act as a mentor for new law clerks—a role he has played informally since his own days in the position, when he recruited other talented evening students to work for TELG.

“I know how much our clerks must juggle,” said Mr. Harrington. “It’s hard to work full-time and stay focused on law school, let alone maintain a personal life. But being a law clerk here is its own learning experience: Our clerks build skills and knowledge that make them better students, as well as better lawyers. It’s a classic apprenticeship, and I am happy to show where it can lead.”

Mr. Harrington was a Writing Fellow while at George Mason Law, and a senior staff member of the Federal Circuit Bar Journal. He was attracted to TELG because of its hiring practices—and its strong focus on fighting civil-rights violations.

“This was a good fit for me from the beginning,” he said. “Our clerks are deeply involved in meaningful litigation; the significance of the work gave me a great feeling of accomplishment. By the time I got my JD, I had decided this was where I wanted to stay.”

TELG was a much smaller firm when Mr. Harrington joined; he was among the first clerks to become an associate attorney. Now the firm has seven associates, all hired from within, and three more clerks are poised for promotion after they pass bar exams in July. TELG’s current clerks attend evening classes at six local law schools: American, Catholic, Georgetown, George Mason, George Washington, and the University of Maryland.

Besides providing in-depth practical experience, TELG offers its clerks some tailor-made perks—including educational leave to accommodate exams and other law-school obligations, and a flexible work schedule that recognizes their need to attend class each evening. Clerks also have a voice in the hiring of their peers.

In return, as each class of clerks graduates, the firm gets a ready-made batch of attorney candidates who are familiar with the firm’s people and culture—and who already know more about employment law than any law school can teach. The move from clerk to associate, said Mr. Harrington, is “hardly a transition at all.”

“We train the type of attorney that we want to hire,” said Mr. Oswald, TELG’s managing principal, who called the elevation of Mr. Harrington “the ultimate proof-of-concept for our model.”

“Just by choosing to attend law school at night, our clerks show an extraordinary dedication to the law,” said Mr. Oswald. “And DC offers, by far, the world’s greatest concentration of first-rate evening law programs. We have long believed that these programs are a perfect recruitment pool—and now, with someone of Tom’s caliber as a principal, I think this wisdom is indisputable.”