having served in his administration as special counsel to the President, U.S. Ambassador to Australia, and senior advisor. He's led the board of California's state universities, as well as leading the State Bar. For three decades, he has been devoted to meeting the needs of every Californian—especially those in the neglected middle-class—as a lawyer, teacher, and community leader. Now he's back serving Californians again.
Jeff grew up a middle-class kid, learning the value of working hard and helping others. He was born on a U.S. Army base in Germany, and his family was able to move into a small home in Connecticut on his dad’s VA loan. His mom was a receptionist and his dad was the neighborhood dentist. Good public schools opened up a world of opportunities, and he went to college on a combination of work-study, loans, and grants.
Jeff met Becky at Amherst College and they got married right after graduation. He spent a year living off a small stipend as a CORO fellow to understand what it takes to make a society work—taking internships with a company, a labor union, a non-profit, a government agency, a political campaign, and learned both how to fight and to find common ground.
He went on to grad school at Harvard University graduating at the top of his class, and then came to California, where he received his law degree from UC Berkeley with the highest honors.
After graduation, Jeff was hired to clerk in the two highest courts in the land, for Judge Abner Mikva on the U.S. Court of Appeals in DC, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme Court. Following his clerkships, he returned to California, arriving as the fourth lawyer in the San Francisco offices of Munger, Tolles & Olson in San Francisco. Over the next two decades, Jeff helped shape Munger, Tolles, and Olson, LLP into one of the most successful and revered law firms in California.
While building a successful career in law, Jeff never forgot that it was the people of California and the University of California at Berkeley who had made that career possible. He took many cases that didn’t come with a paycheck, but instead helped some of our most vulnerable Californians win justice and get ahead. He represented foster youth, women who had been abused, disabled veterans, homeless people, disabled children, wrongly imprisoned individuals, Native Americans and other victims of discrimination, as well as working families who could not afford a good lawyer and asked for his help. Jeff was regularly named one of the best lawyers in California and in the country.
Jeff also learned how to make California's largest and most challenging institutions work. He served for six years on the California State University Board, and was elected its Chair, so that he could make sure that every person in California who worked hard in school would have the same chance that he had to succeed.
He also served as president of the California State Bar, where he championed California's neglected middle class. He worked to make systemic changes to ensure all Californians had a strong voice in our legal system, even if they couldn't afford to hire a big law firm.
As a U.S. Ambassador, he was declared by Australia's former Prime Minister as the best Ambassador the U.S. had ever sent, recognizing his work overseeing record growth in trade and investment between the U.S. and Australia, implementing the Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty, establishing new alliances for cybersecurity, and executing a new space cooperation agreement that supported the Mars Curiosity rover landing.
His work on behalf of our nation has earned him several of the Federal Government”s highest civilian honors. Among them, in 2013, he was nominated by every single member of his senior team to receive the State Department's Sue Cobb Prize for Exemplary Diplomatic Service from Secretary Kerry—an award given to the nation's top non-career Ambassador.
Since returning, Jeff has come home to Oakland where he joined Dentons law firm, and leads a team to help shape legal and public policy initiatives and protect consumers from cyber threats. At the same time, he works to create opportunities for California students as Chair of the Fulbright Board, to create jobs in California and grow our economy as an advisor to Governor Jerry Brown, and volunteers his time to help foster youth, stop domestic violence, and assist others in need.
Jeff and his wife, Becky, have raised their three children, Jake, Matt, and Abby in the East Bay. He gets outside whenever he can for a run or row around Lake Merritt. He’s such a big Elvis fan that the Secret Service gave him the codename “Elvis” when he served as Ambassador, and the City of San Francisco named Elvis' Birthday in Jeff's honor in 2003.