Building Community

"When I started working at the NAACP in 2002, I was not quite 30 and still very much an idealist, and the resolution of cases I worked on brought me enormous professional satisfaction."

Litigator and lobbyist Hannibal G. Williams II Kemerer, JD ’99, an associate at Patton Boggs, is one of those D.C. attorneys who naturally seem to know everyone and strive to help others make connections. 

His passion for community building is evident at his frequent networking gatherings, where he brings together a wide range of people—from law firm partners and business people to public defenders, prosecutors, and students.

“I try to add value to all that I do professionally and personally,” says Mr. Kemerer, who always includes GW Law students at his community-building events. “These are people I want to meet one another; I model it on Patton Boggs’ approach, which is to bring together disparate people at professional events, as it underscores the breadth of the firm’s reach.”

At Patton Boggs, he concentrates his practice on litigation and legislative affairs with a particular focus on the U.S. Senate, its rules and procedures, and the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction. 

His vast Hill experience comes from six years as a Senate lawyer; he served as the chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Crime and Drugs Subcommittee, where he was the lead lawyer for the late Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). He served as a principal Judiciary Committee attorney to the senator, assisted members on both sides of the aisle in enacting legislation, and oversaw high-profile congressional investigations. Additionally, he supervised Sen. Specter’s antitrust, tort reform, intellectual property, civil rights, and criminal law portfolio. 

“Among other things, Sen. Specter taught me to be conscientious about my time and the time of others. He also taught me that preparation is key, and that when properly prepared and observant of the time, one can manage to attend literally dozens of events in a single day.”

Prior to working in the Senate, Mr. Kemerer was an assistant general counsel at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) headquarters in Baltimore and before that, he litigated complex, multiparty employment cases at a Maryland law firm.

“When I started working at the NAACP in 2002, I was not quite 30 and still very much an idealist, and the resolution of cases I worked on brought me enormous professional satisfaction,” he says. “I also met many lifelong friends, including lawyers at The Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and here at Patton Boggs.”

As a student at GW Law, he was a member of the International Law Society and the Black Law Students Association. Reflecting on his law school days, he says, “Professor Jonathan Siegel’s photographic memory never ceased to amaze,” and “Professor Ralph Steinhardt fueled my passion for international law in classes big and small.” 

He adds that he also appreciated Professor Mike Selmi’s “scholarship and omnipresent availability during office hours.” Over the years, he has returned to GW Law to speak to Professor Selmi’s Civil Rights and Litigation classes and, through the professor, has gotten to know many students whom he has unofficially mentored and brought into his networking circle. He says he looks forward to learning more about GW’s alumni mentoring program for 1L students.

“When it comes to law clerks and others that I’ve mentored, I’m sentimental,” he says. “I have worked with so many diligent young lawyers-in-training who went on to do extraordinary things. Mentoring them throughout the years comes naturally to me. The irony is how often they prove to be the real teachers. When I seek to advance exceptional people professionally it is an implicit recognition that many people have helped to promote me along the way. Sometimes we give thanks by paying a favor forward.”

– Claire Duggan