Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Jim Burnley Joins Legislative Group at Venable in Washington

6 min

Cabinet-level and legislative experience keeps Venable's transportation practice on fast track amidst major transit and infrastructure projects in Washington, Virginia, Georgia and elsewhere; Burnley clients include American Airlines, Yellow Corp., Norfolk Southern Railroad, and DMJM + Harris

Washington, DC (April 3, 2002) – The legislative practice of Venable has gained a prominent new member: former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Jim Burnley joins as a partner in the firm's Washington office.

Mr. Burnley, 53, served as Secretary of Transportation from 1987-89 and is one of the country's foremost authorities on transportation law – he also served as Deputy Secretary of Transportation from 1983-87 and was General Counsel of the Department in 1983. Since 1993 he has been a partner in the Washington office of Winston & Strawn.

Mr. Burnley's private practice work has focused on government relations and regulatory/legislative affairs, with a concentration in transportation matters. As outside legislative counsel to American Airlines, he played a key role in the crafting and passage of the emergency Airline Transportation Stabilization Act passed in the days after Sept. 11 to help save the disaster-challenged US airline industry. The Act provided $5 billion in grants and $10 billion in loan guarantees to offset the devastating impact on the airlines of the terrorist attacks. It also allowed for back-up terrorism insurance, without which most major air carriers would have faced grounding for the second time after the attacks.

Mr. Burnley also helped lead a coalition of transportation and manufacturing interests, including his client Yellow Corp., in winning a Congressional override of the Ergonomics Rule issued in the Clinton Administration's final days. Other of more than 20 Burnley clients expected to join him at Venable include Norfolk Southern Corp. and DMJM + Harris, the international design, engineering and construction management firm involved in many of the largest infrastructure projects in the world.

"Jim Burnley has built one of the most preeminent transportation law practices in the country, a segment that continues to grow in importance, especially in the legislative and regulatory arena – he is an outstanding complement to our own work in this area and we're delighted that he's chosen Venable to take the next step in what has already been a stellar career in Washington," said Venable managing partner James Shea.

Prior to his years with the USDOT, Mr. Burnley served as Associate Deputy Attorney General for the Justice Department and as Director of the VISTA Program in the early 1980s.

At Venable, he will be able to combine his career strengths as the firm has a national transportation practice that converges with its extensive legislative and government relations work, including government contracts and environmental and land use law. And he will be joining several other onetime senior members of Washington's government ranks – former Indiana Senator Birch Bayh and former California Congressman and State Attorney General Dan Lungren are both partners at Venable. The firm recently added tax lobbyist Jeffrey Kurzweil to its legislative group, which represents clients with interests before virtually all federal departments and agencies.

"In a relatively short time Venable has become the go-to firm in Washington on legislative business – my existing clients have much to gain from the firm's broad government and lobbying experience, at the policy and implementation levels. What's more, there's a great opportunity to grow our work right now given the critical focus on transportation and infrastructure issues in both the private and public sectors," Mr. Burnley said.

Wilson Bridge, Dulles Metrorail Extension Among Current Venable Projects

John Milliken, co-chair of Venable's state and local government practice said that Mr. Burnley "brings an invaluable dimension to what we do in helping clients move forward with large transportation and infrastructure projects, as well as in navigating the legislative and regulatory landscape. Besides his cabinet-level experience, Jim has worked with every relevant federal agency and branch of government on transportation issues. We already knew we had a unique practice in this area – the addition of Jim Burnley gives us a major head of steam in moving forward." Mr. Milliken was Secretary of Transportation for Virginia from 1990-93; he recently headed the transition team for Virginia Governor Mark R. Warner.

Venable is currently engaged in several high-profile transportation initiatives. The firm represents clients on matters relating to the construction of the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge connecting Virginia and Maryland via I-95, and also on the proposed Dulles Airport/Tysons Corners extension of the Metrorail system in the Washington area. Attorneys in the government group are working on similar large infrastructure projects in Georgia, Maryland and West Virginia.

Mr. Milliken noted that transportation concerns have taken on new meaning in recent months as U.S. cities, along with the federal government, confront the need to improve transit infrastructure as a matter of emergency preparedness.

"Highways, subway systems, tunnel works, bridges, waterways and airports are being examined for their ability to evacuate efficiently in addition to their day-to-day uses of moving large numbers of people," Mr. Milliken said.

Burnley Background

Even in private practice, Mr. Burnley has maintained a visible presence in public transportation. He is vice chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Virginia Port Authority and Chairman of the Port Study Panel of the National Chamber of Commerce Foundation. He is also a member of the Business Advisory Committee of the Transportation Center at Northwestern University.

Mr. Burnley also maintains active civic and corporate board affiliations, including several tied to his transportation work. He serves as a director on the board of Infrasoft, Inc, which produces software for the engineering industry, and as a director for MTA Safety Training Systems, a company involved in truck driver training. He is a trustee and former chairman of the Jamestown Foundation and also current chairman of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. He is also chairman of the Roe Institute Advisory Committee of the Heritage Foundation.

Mr. Burnley received his J.D. from Harvard Law School (1973) and his B.A. degree, magna cum laude, from Yale College (1970). He is admitted to the District of Columbia and North Carolina bars.

Venable's legislative practice is one of the largest in Washington with over 20 seasoned professionals, including former members of Congress, senior congressional staff and presidential appointees. The firm provides strategic public policy advice and counsel to clients on federal, state and foreign government initiatives impacting their businesses. Venable provides advocacy before the U.S. Congress, the Administration, and federal and state administrative agencies.

Photo of Mr. Burnley available upon request.

One of the American Lawyer’s top 100 law firms, Venable LLP has attorneys practicing in all areas of corporate and business law, complex litigation, intellectual property and government affairs. Venable serves corporate, institutional, governmental, nonprofit and individual clients throughout the U.S. and around the world from its headquarters in Washington, D.C. and offices in California, Maryland, New York and Virginia. For more, visit