Law & Courts Federal File

Ex-Secretary Riley Gets a New Position: Capital Rainmaker

By David J. Hoff — May 06, 2008 1 min read

Former Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley has always acted more like a soft-spoken Southern lawyer than a busy Cabinet officer in the limelight of the nation’s capital.

Now, he’s expanding his law practice to Washington.

Mr. Riley announced last month that he would head a new section of his law firm that will focus exclusively on education law, specializing in federal issues facing states, school districts, and nonprofit groups.

Mr. Riley said he would be active in advising the team of 12 lawyers—many of whom worked for him when he was education secretary under President Clinton from 1993 to 2001.

“I’ll be spending more time [in Washington] and advising them when called upon,” Mr. Riley, 75, said in a phone interview from Greenville, S.C., where he lives. “I’ll mostly be in an advisory role, meeting with top clients and lawyers, and talking about strategy and tactics.”

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The new office will be called EducationCounsel and will be affiliated with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough—the Atlanta-based firm that in 1987 merged with the firm founded by Mr. Riley’s father.

EducationCounsel will be led by Arthur L. Coleman and Scott R. Palmer, both of whom worked in the Education Department’s office for civil rights during Mr. Riley’s tenure as secretary, which lasted all eight years of the Clinton administration.

Since leaving the federal government, Mr. Coleman and Mr. Palmer have built a practice advising state education agencies and nonprofits on federal education policy and legal matters. They have most recently been with the Washington office of the Holland & Knight firm, also based in Atlanta.

Mr. Palmer has worked closely with the Council of Chief State School Officers and several states individually on No Child Left Behind issues.

“This is an opportunity to expand to the next level in terms of service capacity,” Mr. Palmer said in an interview.

Mr. Riley’s leadership role in Nelson Mullins and his prominence in education circles are two of the reasons Mr. Palmer and his colleagues decided to form the new alliance, he said.


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