Jeh Johnson, the general counsel for the U.S. Department of Defense, has announced that he is stepping down at the end of the year after almost four years in the job.
It is anticipated that Johnson, 55, will return as a partner to Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, the firm where he has spent the bulk of his private legal career.
"We are immensely proud of Jeh's service to our country, and it is our hope and expectation that, after some much deserved R&R, Jeh will choose to return to our firm," said Brad Karp, chairman of Paul Weiss.
Johnson will likely remain based in Washington, D.C., for the immediate future.
In a letter yesterday to President Barack Obama, Johnson said he would resign effective midnight Dec. 31, and that, after taking some time off, he would return to private practice.
"Thank you for the opportunity to be part of your campaign, your transition and your administration," Johnson wrote. "Thank you also for the best clients I will ever have: Robert Gates, Leon Panetta, and the men and women of the U.S. military. I wish you continued success in your second term."
At the Defense Department, Johnson oversees an army of 10,000 lawyers, including 150 who report to the general counsel's office. He was confirmed to the post in February 2009.
During his time at the agency, Johnson authored a 266-page report concluding that allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military would cause few disruptions. That report paved the way for Congress to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
Johnson also was instrumental in the Obama administration's handling of military commission trials at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and the determination of legality of U.S. military involvement in Libya.
His annual salary at the Defense Department is about $155,000. Last year, average profits per equity partner at Paul Weiss reached $3 million, according to The American Lawyer, a Law Journal affiliate.