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Danielle Conley (NC '00)

By Beth Chauvin

Mar 05, 2021

In December of 2020, the Biden Administration appointed Danielle Conley to serve as Deputy Counsel to the President.

Prior to her appointment in the Biden Administration, Conley previously served as Associate Deputy Attorney General for the Justice Department during President Obama’s Administration. Conley has a long history of using her profession to help serve the community and affect positive change.

In March 2019, while serving as Partner and Co-Chair of the Anti-Discrimination Practice at WilmerHale, Conley co-published an issue brief advocating for an end to discriminatory driver's license suspension schemes in Washington D.C. Conley found that the practice of suspending a driver's license as punishment for unpaid debts has cascading effects that disproportionately affect communities of color.

In September 2020, Conley was recognized by The National Law Journal as a DC Trailblazer for her work on behalf of clients facing the often complex and difficult challenges that accompany allegations of discrimination and harassment in their workplaces or on their campuses. 

Conley developed an anti-discrimination practice at WilmerHale after spending the last two years of the Obama administration as an associate deputy attorney general in the Department of Justice. Conley says she has always gravitated towards civil rights law; she won a case challenging the constitutionality of a voter-identification law in Texas and more recently secured a judgment for Harvard University in a closely watched case challenging the school’s use of race in admissions decisions.

The #MeToo movement began months after Conley left the Department of Justice with revelations about the sexual misconduct of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Immediately, the idea that “sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in the workplace should not be tolerated really did crystallize.” Similarly, the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis gave clarity to racial discrimination issues. Conley sees more institutions intent on creating a better culture for women and for racial minorities. “In this moment, that is what people are talking about, and it is extremely, extremely important.”

In 2021, Diversity Journal recognized Conley with the Black Leaders Worth Watching Award. In 2017 she was named one of Washingtonian's 40 under 40.

“When I was a summer associate at Paul Weiss, I recall Jeh Johnson—then a partner at Paul Weiss [who would go on to lead the Department of Homeland Security under Obama]—telling me to never pick a job solely based on money. He encouraged me to not get trapped by ‘golden handcuffs’ because some of the most fulfilling jobs for lawyers are in the public sector. He was absolutely right.”