W. Neil Eggleston (JD ’78) Receives Lifetime Achievement Award From The American Lawyer


After Law School Alumni Awards government Public Service
Neil Eggleston at a podium at The 2023 American Lawyer Industry Awards
Neil Eggleston at the 2023 American Lawyer Industry Awards ceremony

The American Lawyer honored W. Neil Eggleston (JD ’78) with a 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award late last year. The Harvard Law School lecturer and Kirkland & Ellis partner received the award at a black-tie ceremony in New York.

When Eggleston talks about his career, he structures his experience around iconic Washington, DC buildings he worked in, starting with the Supreme Court, where he clerked for Chief Justice Warren Burger from 1979-1980. “I lived in the Capitol Hill behind the Supreme Court, but I would walk around to the front to get in so I could walk up those fabulous stairs,” he said in a January interview with Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.  

In 1987, he served as the deputy chief counsel for the Select Committee investigating the Iran/Contra Affair, working from an office in the Capitol Building, located beneath the iconic dome. “I pointed out that we would’ve had a fantastic view if we’d had a window.”

From there, he worked in the Old Executive Office Building as associate counsel to the president in the Clinton administration and then in the White House in the Obama administration as White House counsel. “People always ask me, ‘What’s been your favorite job?’” he said. “I always answer, ‘I don’t have a favorite job. Every job is great, and every job has issues.’”

The American Lawyer profiled Eggleston as part of the recognition, chronicling his career that also included working as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. In that role, Eggleston ultimately became that office’s top appeals lawyer, eventually working with the U.S. House of Representatives and then the White House. Today, he focuses on enforcement defense at Kirkland and serves as chair of the Appeal Committee for FIFA, professional soccer’s international governing body.

Eggleston said he was “enormously pleased and felt quite rewarded” by The American Lawyer’s recognition. The award has been an opportunity for him to reflect on lessons learned over his career. “I tell people that you really have no idea what the future’s going to bring,” he said. “All you can do is put yourself in the best position to take advantage of whatever opportunities come your way.”

He said that he cautions students not to rest on their laurels, telling them, “After a couple years, nobody cares that you’ve clerked on the Supreme Court. It’s a great credential to have, but it doesn’t really last very long. It helps you get that first and maybe the second job. But after that, people care whether you’re a quality lawyer.”

Grateful for his education and the opportunities it awarded him, Eggleston began giving back to Northwestern Pritzker Law shortly after graduating in 1978, serving on the Law Board and attending events on campus and in Washington, DC, where he’s based.

“Congratulations to W. Neil Eggleston on the incredibly well-deserved honor of The American Lawyer’s Lifetime Achievement Award,” Dean Hari Osofsky said. “His extraordinary public service contributions at the highest levels of government have made a tremendous impact on public policy and advanced justice. We are extremely grateful for the difference he makes through his leadership in society and at our Law School.”

Eggleston reassures law students interested in public service that there are opportunities beyond government or relatively low-paying jobs that don’t recoup the cost of student loans. “There’s public service through law firms. Most law firms are quite committed to pro bono work, which is a form of public service. You don’t have to be working for the ACLU as a full-time lawyer in order to contribute public service. It’s not an either/or.”