President Trump will have his own Philadelphia lawyer in the White House.
James D. Schultz, a Cozen O'Connor partner and former general counsel of the commonwealth, was named an associate White House counsel Monday by the Trump administration. He began work Monday.
The small team of White House lawyers occupies a crucial nexus of power in a presidential administration, with a hand in policy across all federal agencies and a role in vetting judicial and other appointments. Schultz could be positioned well to help the Philadelphia region, political insiders say.
Schultz, 44, served as Pennsylvania's top lawyer under Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, from July 2012 through November 2014, when he returned to Cozen and became chair of the government-affairs and regulatory practice group.
In Harrisburg, Schultz provided legal advice to the governor and the executive staff, and supervised about 500 lawyers who represented 36 departments as well as independent state boards and commissions.
Last year, Schultz joined the legal team working for Trump at the Republican National Convention, advising on floor operations and deliberations over the GOP platform and rules. The team was supervised Donald F. McGahn, a former Federal Election Commission chairman, Trump's pick for White House counsel.
Schultz went on to advise the Trump transition effort on government ethics and compliance issues, among other things. Insiders say he impressed McGahn with his work. In the west wing, Schultz's portfolio is expected to include ethics issues.
"It's a tremendous recognition for a very talented guy," said U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan (R.,Pa.), who hired Schultz for his U.S. attorney's office in Philadelphia in the George W. Bush administration. "Jim earned his way there. ... He's a bulldog. He'll get on an issue, stay on it, and accomplish it."
From 2005 to 2008, Schultz provided legal advice to Meehan, then the top federal prosecutor for eastern Pennsylvania, and also served as liaison to law enforcement agencies. Later, Schultz was a campaign strategist for the congressman.
He worked at Cozen O'Connor as a litigator from 2008 until 2011, when he joined the Corbett administration. He returned to the firm in late 2014.
"He's got great judgment and is extremely smart," said Cozen O'Connor CEO Michael Heller. "He understands politics and he's a terrific relationship person." With his legal ability and political skills, Schultz brought a substantial number of clients to the firm in a short time, Heller said.
"He is the complete package — a fine lawyer with terrific political instincts and judgment," said Charles G. Kopp, senior counsel at the firm and a mentor of Schultz's. "I predict Jim will do an outstanding job as associate White House counsel and special assistant to the president, especially since his client will be only a short distance away."
Schultz received his bachelor's degree in 1995 from Temple University, where he was an offensive lineman for the Owls football team. He got his law degree in 1998 from Widener University School of Law.
Schultz is a native of Galloway Township, N.J. As it happens, McGahn hails from nearby Atlantic City.
The appointment is a "plum" for the Philadelphia region, Meehan said, noting the influence and contacts that Schultz will have throughout the federal government.