Katie Thomson, U.S. Department of Transportation General Counsel, Joins Morrison & Foerster as a Partner

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Key member of the Obama administration’s transportation team will lead the firm’s Transportation Group out of Washington, D.C.

Morrison & Foerster, a leading global law firm, is pleased to announce that Katie Thomson, former general counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), has joined the firm as a partner in Washington, D.C. Ms. Thomson, also previously the chief counsel at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), will chair the firm’s Transportation Group. Ms. Thomson will counsel transportation clients on regulatory matters, civil and criminal litigation, internal and governmental investigations, compliance issues, and cybersecurity matters.

“For the last eight years Katie has played a pivotal role in shaping national transportation law and policy, including those regulations at the intersection of transportation and technology like autonomous vehicles and drones, as well as critical energy and sustainability initiatives. With more than 25 years of experience in both the government and private practice, Katie brings an outstanding background to Morrison & Foerster and is a key addition to our already highly accomplished Transportation Group,” Larren Nashelsky, chair of Morrison & Foerster, said. “We are also pleased to welcome another partner with deep regulatory expertise to our rapidly growing Washington, D.C. office. Katie is joining an exceptionally deep bench of lawyers who are committed to meeting the increasing regulatory needs of our clients.”

Bill O’Connor, co-chair of Morrison & Foerster’s Airports & Aviation Group and its Drones / Unmanned Aircraft Systems Group, added: “Katie’s tremendous regulatory and litigation experience with countless complex traditional and cutting edge transportation matters during her time at the DOT and throughout her career will significantly grow the firm’s Transportation Group. Katie is uniquely qualified to advise and understand the needs of innovative clients involved in the transition to more sophisticated, technology-based, and integrated transportation systems and networks. Her work at the DOT on vehicle safety standards, recalls, and autonomous vehicles, as well as what she did at both the DOT and FAA around integrating drones into the national airspace are particularly noteworthy.”

As general counsel at the DOT, a position that she held from May 2013 to July 2016, Ms. Thomson was involved in numerous high-profile policy decisions, including setting standards for vehicle safety and recalls; improving the safety of crude oil transportation; advancing U.S. aviation priorities overseas; moving forward regulatory priorities for autonomous vehicles; forming new emissions standards for vehicle fleets, railroads, and shipping; instituting an international carbon dioxide standard for commercial aircraft; responding to the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme; and establishing pipeline safety and hazardous materials transport regulation. Throughout her time at the DOT, Ms. Thomson was the point person on interagency initiatives coordinated by the White House. She also advised senior leadership on how to respond to crises and emergency situations, including the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 accident in San Francisco.

Before her tenure as general counsel at the DOT, Ms. Thomson was chief counsel of the FAA for two years, where her principal focus was on enhancing aviation safety and the integration of drones into the national airspace. Among other things, she settled the largest air carrier enforcement matter in FAA history and provided legal advice regarding the Boeing 787 (Dreamliner) lithium ion battery matter, including the development and implementation of airworthiness directives to improve the safety of the aircraft. Ms. Thomson is the only person ever to serve as both general counsel of the DOT and chief counsel of the FAA.

Ms. Thomson also spent three years as counselor to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, with responsibility for managing the department’s energy, climate, and environmental matters. In addition, the secretary appointed Ms. Thomson as the first senior sustainability officer of the department, putting her in charge of internal energy efficiency and sustainability goals, toward which the department made great progress.

Before joining the government in 2009, Ms. Thompson practiced for 19 years in the environmental group at Sidley Austin in Washington, D.C., where she focused on civil and criminal litigation, compliance counseling, and regulatory advocacy focusing on energy generation and hazardous materials transportation.

Ms. Thomson received her B.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

“Morrison & Foerster has an impressive national reputation for litigation, federal regulatory, and transactional work involving aviation, railroads, drones, ground-based autonomous vehicles, and other forms of transportation. MoFo’s comprehensive and global platform, as well as its vast pool of technology clients, provides an ideal opportunity for me to help build an even stronger, cutting-edge transportation practice at the firm with my new colleagues,” Ms. Thomson said. “I am also excited to join a firm that is growing at such a significant pace in Washington, D.C.”

Ms. Thomson is the 15th new partner hired by Morrison & Foerster in Washington, D.C., as well as Northern Virginia, during the last two years, with key additions made across the firm’s Litigation and Corporate Departments. During just the last six months, the firm has welcomed a group of eight government contracts partners, including David Churchill, whom Chambers has referred to as a “dean of the government contracts bar,” and Mark Whitaker, who has significantly expanded the firm’s East Coast intellectual property litigation capabilities.

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Amy Merriweather
Morrison & Foerster
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