A career lawyer, Brown has moved in and out of government for most of her career. Her father was a managing partner at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, a...
A career lawyer, Brown has moved in and out of government for most of her career. Her father was a managing partner at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, a Washington, D.C. firm that her grandfather, W. John Kenney, founded. Kenney was also under secretary of the Navy and the administrator of the Marshall Plan in Europe.(2) Her stepfather was an investment banker who became president of the Chevy Chase Savings Bank in Maryland, but Brown went to boarding school at the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut.(2)
Brown graduated from Princeton University with a degree in political economy in 1982, and then earned her J.D. from University of Chicago in 1986.(3) After graduating, she clerked for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge John C. Godbold on the 11th Circuit and spent one year as the staff attorney at the Center for Law in the Public Interest in Los Angeles.(4) Years later, Judge Godbold officiated Brown’s second wedding to Dr. Kevin Cullen, a cancer specialist and researcher.(5)
Brown worked for years at the Washington law firm Shea & Gardner. She specialized in litigation and transactional work, moving up to partner during her time there. She also took on extensive pro-bono work, focusing on issues related to housing. She wrote briefs related to the treatment of people with disabilities under The Fair Housing Amendment Act of 1988, and she co-edited a 350-page report by the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless that accused Washington D.C. of poor treatment of the homeless population.(6)
In 1996, Brown moved into government, taking a job as an attorney adviser in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. She served there for less than a year before Vice President Al Gore asked her to join his office as deputy counsel. She worked directly under Charles Burson, who at the time was chief counsel in the vice president’s office. In September 1999, Burson was named Gore’s chief of staff after Ron Klain departed, and Brown was promoted to chief counsel. “Lisa is an incredibly talented attorney, whose knowledge and advice I know I can rely on and trust,” Gore said. “I am very pleased that she has decided to take on this new responsibility.”(7)
At the end of Gore’s term in January 2001, Brown returned to the private sector, joining Washington, D.C. civil rights law firm Relman & Associates. She also joined the American Constitution Society and served as the organization’s executive director until she took a leave of absence to head up the Agency Review Working Group for Obama’s transition team. She was co-chair of the team that reviewed all government agencies to prep Obama’s political appointees with the information necessary to start as soon as they are officially appointed in January.(8)
In November 2008, Brown was named staff secretary for the White House. The staff secretary, a crucial job once held by transition co-chair John Podesta from 1993 to 1995 before he became President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, is responsible for all the communications that reach the president’s office. The position was created by President Dwight Eisenhower to screen all the documents seen by the president.(9)