Former Skadden solicitor pardoned by President Trump

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The King’s College London law grad was charged with making false statements in connection with the Mueller investigation

Among the recent wave of those to receive a presidential pardon from Trump is a former associate at the London office of US law firm Skadden.

Alex van der Zwaan, who worked at the London office of US law firm Skadden where he specialised in litigation, congressional investigations and government policy, was the first to be formally convicted back in 2018 under the Mueller inquiry, an investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign team. During the investigation, the Dutch national pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to investigators. This resulted in a sentence of 30 days’ imprisonment and a fine of $20,000 (£14,000).

In a statement about the pardon, the White House said:

“Today, President Trump granted a full pardon to Alex van der Zwaan. His pardon is supported by former Rep. Trey Gowdy.

“Mr. van der Zwaan was charged with a process-related crime, one count of making false statements, in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. None of his underlying conduct was alleged to have been unlawful, nor did prosecutors note any prior criminal history. Mr. van der Zwaan is a Dutch national who voluntarily returned to the United States to correct his statements and surrendered his passport upon entry.”

van der Zwaan graduated in law from Kings College London before completing the Legal Practice Course at BPP Law School. He then joined Skadden in 2007. By 2012 he was working on a politically sensitive report for the government of Ukraine, a Skadden client.

The work drew the Russian-speaking solicitor into the world of Ukrainian politics, which bled into the Mueller investigation. van der Zwaan worked with Mueller targets Rick Gates and Paul Manafort. When the activities of Gates and Manafort attracted Mueller’s interest, FBI investigators sat down for an eight-hour grilling with van der Zwaan about his work with them.

According to an agreed statement of facts put before the disciplinary tribunal, van der Zwaan tried to cover up relevant calls and emails “to ensure Skadden did not find out about the communication concerning his prospective employment with Mr Gates and Mr Manafort”. He also failed to produce an email sent to him by Manafort associate Konstantine Kilimnik, a former Russian intelligence officer. When this came out, van der Zwaan was prosecuted for providing false information to the FBI and Skadden sacked him for gross misconduct.

In 2019, van der Zwaan was struck off the Roll of Solicitors. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) ruled that the former Skadden solicitor had failed to uphold the rule of law and act with integrity, as required by professional rules.

In mitigation, Mr van der Zwaan said he quickly regretted what he had done and sought to put it right, coming forward himself voluntarily to correct what he had stated, which is what led to his conviction. He added that the incorrect answers had brought him no benefit and provided testimonials to show his actions were “completely out of character”. He also outlined personal mitigation, including his new wife “finding it hard to cope with his continuous and prolonged absences from home due to the demands placed upon him by his work”.



How did he Zwaan his way out of that one?



Are Skadden in Latham & Watkins and Kirkland’s league? I was surprised by how many TCs they offer and the salary is obviously very attractive.



Different kind of firm. Skadden are Wall Street thoroughbreds who are best at huge public M&A sprawling around the world. They’re very well established and do what they do extremely well, but aren’t going to grow exponentially.

Kirkland are an entrepreneurial, ruthlessly private equity focussed, rule breaking firm based in Chicago that’s come from nowhere in the past 10-15 years on the back of insane growth.

Latham are an LA bred a mix of the two. They’re fast growing and do a lot of sponsor work, but they are more full service and have been the anointed “going to be the best firm on the planet one day” shop for years.

You can fairly confidently say Latham are on a trajectory to be a Skadden like firm in 20 years. It’s less obvious where Kirkland’s end game is. It’s a matter of personal preference whether that’s exciting or concerning.

You could quite easily move between any of the three all the way up to junior partner level (moving as an equity partner is always complex, but that’s hardly a concern when you’re applying for TCs)


Small guy

Great summary. I will say though that much better to have a career at an elite boutique like Slaughters, Travers, Watchell or Cravath than some of these firms.


One of these is not like the others




It’s Wachtell



Kirkland’s public M&A team in New York are up there with the best.



“It’s less obvious what Kirkland’s end game is”. Well it’s currently the largest litigation firm in the world, with arguably the best restructuring practice going, and a huge public M&A team. Alongside the killer private equity platform. But listen to the future trainee!


Sex and Violins

Restructuring is not as lucrative this side of the Atlantic. In the US its a massive free for all and the process is led by lawyers. Here it tends to be driven by accountants.


Who cares

That still doesn’t get him un-struck off.



How can presidential pardons be defended in any democratic system? It is an affront to the rule of law and due process. A shameful feature that should be abolished ASAP!


Policy Advisor

Disagree, when it come to Death Row inmates imprisoned for a likely miscarriage of justice, many times due to racism, it may be the literal difference between life and death.


Not Important.

It took Trump to highlight the abomination that is, a pardon. There is no remedy to prevent its corrupt use for personal gain. Instead, the argument from constitutionalists is that it is the president right to pardon whoever he wants.



The point of the pardon though is to forgive those who may have been convicted on flimsy evidence, those who have seriously atoned for their sins or those who were convicted for things that morally may not be an issue today. For example the guy who sold drugs age 18 who at age 50 is doing good work in the prison system and has seriously reformed, or the woman who maybe killed her husband after years of abuse and being beaten up. Extreme examples but fair enough. The pardons have always been abused for political purposes, but Trump has of course taken it to the extreme.


Denis C

LC on ANY current affairs topic: Are the people involved lawyers lawyers? What law school did they go to? What firm did they work for?



Wow, I knew that guy back in the day. Brilliant and really nice dude, glad he got out ok, even if not in the most honourable way. Looks like he married well too. Shame about his legal career though, he deserved better.



So lying in a criminal investigation is just a “process” matter now?



Just as lying to the Queen to close Parliament was “just” political expediency. The new right with their nationalist agenda have no class on either side of the Atlantic and they know their basic racist white uneducated voter base do not care.


Big Nige

Are you sure it wasn’t “executed by Trump”?

That’s what he seems to have been doing quite a lot of lately, as well as bringing back the electric chair, gas chamber, firing squad and hanging as execution options if the federal government runs out of lethal injection drugs.

Such a nice man…



Graduated from The Strand Polytechnic. Says it all.


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