Richard Cullen, an acclaimed white-collar litigator who led McGuireWoods through a transformational period as the firm’s chairman, was selected to the Virginia Lawyers Hall of Fame class of 2019 by Virginia Lawyers Weekly. Cullen and his fellow inductees will be honored at a May 21 reception in Richmond and profiled in a special Virginia Lawyers Weekly publication in late May.
In a four-decade career at McGuireWoods, Cullen has represented some of the best-known and most powerful figures in government and business and led the firm to national prominence as it expanded its U.S. and global footprint.
Recent engagements include representing Vice President Mike Pence in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and leading a McGuireWoods team that sued North Korea and won a $501 million judgment in December for the parents of Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who died of injuries he suffered in a North Korean prison. Cullen was a member of the legal team that persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to end the Florida election recount in 2000, securing the presidency for George W. Bush.
While Cullen was the firm’s chairman from 2006 to 2017, McGuireWoods grew from 750 lawyers in 15 offices to more than 1,000 lawyers in 22 offices worldwide. The firm opened offices in Texas and California, established McGuireWoods London and an Asian presence in Shanghai. He also oversaw development of an industry-focused strategy that earned the firm global recognition as a leader in innovative approaches that enhance client service.
“Richard’s visionary leadership as chairman helped transform McGuireWoods into a thriving, nationally prominent law firm known for innovation and client service excellence,” said Jonathan Harmon, who succeeded Cullen as chairman in 2017. “His achievements as a law firm leader, litigator and public servant are worthy of the highest recognition, and we congratulate him on this honor.”
Cullen’s McGuireWoods career was interrupted by stints as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia from 1991 to 1994, and as Virginia’s attorney general from 1997 to 1998. In 1993, while serving as a federal prosecutor, he worked with Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder to build support for landmark legislation limiting individual handgun purchases to one per month, a law that remained on the books for nearly two decades. Under Wilder’s successor, George Allen, Cullen co-chaired a bipartisan commission that developed a detailed plan to abolish parole for violent offenders, one of Allen’s signature legislative achievements.
In addition to his accomplishments in public office and private practice, Cullen was a driving force behind the 1998 birth of McGuireWoods Consulting, the firm’s full-service public affairs arm recognized in Washington, D.C., and in state capitals nationwide as a premier lobbying, advocacy, grassroots and strategic communications provider.
Cullen joins McGuireWoods Tysons partner Thomas Spahn, a member of the inaugural Virginia Lawyers Hall of Fame class in 2018, as a recipient of the Virginia Lawyers Weekly honor.
“Ever since I visited Cooperstown when I was 12, I wanted to be in the Hall of Fame,” Cullen quipped. “Seriously, I’m very appreciative of the recognition, but trust that everyone understands that, in every instance mentioned, I was working as part of a team of great lawyers at McGuireWoods.”