Special Counsel to the FBI Director
(November 2012) Nick Lewin currently serves as special counsel to the FBI Director in Washington, DC, a position he assumed after many years with the US Attorney's Office in New York City, New York. The following profile was written prior to his new position.
As an assistant US attorney in New York City, Nick Lewin prosecuted white collar crime, drug crime, violent and organized crime, and terrorism.
"If you think of many of the fundamental issues we face over the next ten years – terrorism, the globalization of crime, the world mortgage crisis, corruption in public companies – in all of them, federal prosecutors are at the forefront," he says. The issues are big, the stakes are high, and Nick says the most important skills he brings to his work are ones he learned in the UNC-Chapel Hill MPA program.
"Prosecuting a large case is a mini-enterprise," he says. "I will be working with different groups that have different goals, different organizational cultures, and different measures of success—with federal agents, defense lawyers, other prosecutors, a dozen witnesses. The skill of managing complexity, appreciating everyone's interests while not compromising core values – that's a skill I did not come into the MPA program with, but certainly one I came out with."
A native New Yorker, Nick comments that it is most interesting working as an assistant US attorney in New York. "You choose the topic – it's all happening here," he says. But he also talks with great fondness about his time spent in the south. After graduating from the State University of New York at Binghamton, he looked for an MPA program that would prepare him for work in public service but without the limits of a specific discipline. Choosing Carolina's program turned out to be pretty easy for other reasons, too. "I left Binghamton, New York, on February 15, 1996, to visit Carolina," says Nick. "There were two feet of snow on the ground. It was 38 degrees with icy snow blowing. I landed at the Raleigh-Durham airport, where the temperature was in the mid-70s and there wasn't a cloud in the sky."
Nick valued the small and intimate nature of the UNC-Chapel Hill program, while enjoying the intellectual and social opportunities of a large university and the opportunity to get hands-on experience. From his summer MPA internship as programming director at the Seeds of Peace International Camp in Maine, to his work as a Presidential Management Fellow at the White House, and as a federal prosecutor, Nick's MPA experience has been instrumental in actualizing his passion for public service and justice.
During his fellowship, he worked with state and local police in high-crime neighborhoods and designed a school violence prevention program with the FBI Behavioral Science Unit. In 2000, Nick was named associate director of the White House Council on Youth Violence, acting as a liaison with Congress and federal agencies; writing presidential statements, speeches and radio addresses; and briefing the President and senior staff. While at Yale Law School, he sought to mirror the balance of academic and practical experience that he had valued at the MPA program by working with a clinic that provided free legal assistance to people with low income. He recommends the combination of an MPA and law degree for learning to assess and understand policy and the mechanisms of politics and management.
Nick still strives to maintain balance - between a demanding job and a growing family, and as a motivator in his work. "I'm dealing with real victims and real criminal predators," he says. "I'd like to think that sometimes, we're able to even the scales."