One of the country’s top attorneys came to GW on Tuesday to speak to an audience of law students.
Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice Antitrust Division Makan Delrahim was joined by Executive Vice President of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) and board member of the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington Rabbi Levi Shemtov for a discussion. This was about Delrahim’s personal story of success as an attorney and the future of antitrust law.
The event was hosted by Chabad GW, GW Jewish Law Student Association (JLSA), and GW Law Antitrust Law Association. The discussion was moderated by GW Law Professor William Kovacic and Rabbi Shemtov.
"Today's event with Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim was inspiring. It's encouraging to see Judaism playing such a prominent role in his life and career. We look forward to seeing him prosper in this exciting position and know that our members look up to him as a shining example of how Judaism and the law can complement each other," stated Michael Azi Farr, president of JLSA and board member of Chabad GW.
Delrahim's relationship with Judaism and Iranian heritage
Delrahim and his family immigrated to Los Angeles as political refugees from the Iranian Revolution. He was 10 years old and couldn’t speak English. President Jimmy Carter had banned Iranians from immigrating to America, but Delrahim was exempted due to his Jewish faith.
Delrahim had difficulties assimilating in school, given the language barrier and the hostility many had towards Iranians. To overcome his difficulties, he was able to find strength in being an active member of the Chabad Jewish community.
"We were honored and delighted to have such a prominent alumnus of GW and long time friend of Chabad, join us and help students chart their careers as professionals and Jews," Rabbi Menachem Shemtov, son of Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who was in attendance at the event. “He was really so humble and personable, a real star.”
Delrahim has maintained a strong Jewish identity both in his personal life and in his career.
When the conversation turned political, Delrahim emphasized a strong belief that the Constitution provides the U.S. with resilience, meaning the country can face any issue and still thrive.
He repeatedly called working in public service both an honor and a privilege. He remarked that the U.S. is one of the few countries where an immigrant can rise in the field of public service with hard work.
He wishes folks in Congress would be more willing to reach out to each other, but there is a prohibitive and punitive atmosphere for that kind of outreach. Delrahim has had success in building common understandings, though he emphasizes this takes a lot of time and effort. Even though Delrahim represents mainstream conservative views, and some of his friends may be very liberal, the political differences between them are no match for "beer and buffalo wings."
Delrahim remarked that trust-based relationships are significant in government and business—without trust in each other there can be no meaningful relationships among individuals.
Delrahim believes antitrust laws should be enforced early on and vigorously to preserve free market competition. He doesn’t view this as a partisan issue, and supports Republicans and Democrats alike for upholding these laws. He called Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) a “great man,” one of integrity for his antitrust enforcement. He also referenced John Oliver’s HBO show Last Week Tonight, particularly a segment on corporate consolidation, which he found informative and humorous.
Delrahim voiced concern that antitrust positions would become political tools because political nominees are sometimes vetted based on their opinions.
Delrahim argued that a good government could enforce antitrust laws with the ability to make change. For example, Delrahim cited a Microsoft antitrust case in the 1990s that was largely responsible for major technological innovations in the Internet and the development of the smartphone.
Additionally, he detailed how his department was expanding personnel to handle international applications of antitrust law, such as with China and the EU. He was pleasantly surprised to learn about antitrust law development there, which he called ‘forward thinking.’
“Today, students had the unique opportunity to hear Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim speak about his incredible personal and professional journey during his visit to GW Law. Hearing such an influential figure in antitrust law discuss current issues in the field was truly inspiring. We wish him the best in this new chapter of his career and consider ourselves lucky to have such an involved alumnus in the GW Law community,” remarked Emily Lentz, president of GW Law's Antitrust Law Association.
He stated his goal was to leave his position in better shape then he found it in to attract lawyers and economists to fill the important roles.
Advice to students
Delrahim told students to understand that disagreement was important for debate, and encouraged students to go into both public and private practices to truly see the other side of any issue.
Delrahim encouraged students to take advantage of the many internship opportunities available in the District. According to Delrahim, it’s important to look at different places in government to find what areas students truly fit into.
“Nothing is more important than enjoying the work you do,” Delrahim said.
When asked how it felt to be back at GW Law, Delrahim told The Rival “Feels like I never left.”
This article has been updated to reflect a quote from Emily Lentz, president of GW Law's Antitrust Law Association.