CONVERSATIONS: The Intersection of Government, Law, and Politics

Jeremy Berry's 97C 03L career combines government, law, and politics, and Laura Pearlman Wenner 97C gets the conversation going.

By Laura Pearlman Wenner 97C

Story Photo

Jeremy Berry 97C 03L and his wife Rashelle C. Berry 98C 04PH

Jeremy Berry 97C 03L knew as an Emory freshman that he was interested in politics and government, and his resume shows it. During his undergraduate years, the political science major served as Student Government Association president, interned for the Clinton/Gore White House, and worked for a U.S. senator. But it was after graduation, during a stint at Emory’s Office of Government and Community Affairs, that Berry experienced a pivotal moment – chauffeuring Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights icon in the South, around Emory’s campus during a day-long visit. “It was one of those ‘aha’ moments,” says Berry. “I knew what I wanted to be doing. Also, Congressman Lewis was so down to Earth, especially considering all that he has accomplished, that it underscored the importance of remaining grounded no matter what profession you are in or the successes you achieve.”

These days, the 39-year-old father of two has carved out an interesting career at the intersection of government, law and politics. Now an attorney at McKenna Long and Aldridge, an international law firm with 150 lawyers in Atlanta, Berry focuses his practice on government affairs, government contracts, and campaign finance. His client roster is studded with Georgia’s democratic political elite, including Mayor Kasim Reed, State Senator Jason Carter, Michelle Nunn, and yes, even Congressman John Lewis. Berry recently shared his story with former Emory classmate Laura Pearlman Wenner 97C.

Laura: How did you first get involved in politics?

Jeremy: My freshman year at Emory I got involved in Emory student government. Back in Birmingham over the summer after freshman year, I worked for U.S. Senator Richard Shelby in his home district office. Then, after interning in the White House, I volunteered for the Clinton/Gore campaign in 1996 in my home state of Alabama. I had always liked politics and was interested in government of all levels. I volunteered for the Clinton/Gore campaign because I liked the energy, and what I perceived to be Clinton’s vision and new wave in politics.

Laura: Tell me about meeting Bill Clinton. That must have been otherworldly.

Conversations

Jeremy: The rock star status is true. When you talk to him, all his focus is entirely on you, actively listening. I remember him being very tall and larger than life. Then in the summer of 1995 I interned at the White House. The internship sealed the deal that I wanted to be involved in politics. Ironically, it also made me realize that D.C. is not where I wanted to be immediately after college.

Laura: Law school seems like the next logical step after your job at Emory in government affairs.

Jeremy: Yes, I worked at Emory for three years, representing the university in various levels of government. It was fascinating to meet with Members of Congress to lobby them and help to advance Emory’s legislative agenda. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to practice law, but I knew attending Emory Law School would help me take my work and career to the next level because no matter what profession I chose after law school it would involve the law in some manner.

Laura: What’s it like to represent the Mayor of Atlanta?

Jeremy: He’s a fascinating person, just a true visionary. I am fortunate because I am able to see the personal side of him that many people might not have the chance to see. He was kind enough to allow my two sons to be featured in his re-election commercial last year.

Looking back over the last fifteen years, now that I’m representing Congressman John Lewis’s campaign, my career has really come full circle – from driving him around as a new Emory grad to working with him and his staff now.

Laura Pearlman Wenner 97C is a strategic writer, editor, and marketer living in Atlanta. 

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Michelle Valigursky