Rod J. Howard

Rod Howard was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.

Mr. Howard worked in a succession of positions at the Daily Wildcat between 1974 and 1977, starting as night copy reader and then later as copy editor, news editor, summer editor and one of the Wildcat’s first regular editorial page columnists.  After graduating from the University of Arizona in December 1977 with a B.A. in English literature, Mr. Howard attended the University of Chicago Law School, where was a member of the editorial board of the law review.  He also co-founded the modern resurrection of the law school’s then-dormant newspaper, The Phoenix, which still publishes.

After graduating from law school with honors in 1982, he worked as a law clerk to the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Judicial Circuit, and then spent a year as a visiting scholar at a leading post-graduate institute in Germany devoted to comparative and international private law.

Upon returning to the United States in 1984, Mr. Howard worked for 12 years in his hometown of New York City, first as a corporate takeover and securities law litigator with Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a leading takeover defense firm, and then as a “corporate” lawyer with Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, an old line Wall Street law firm, where he specialized in mergers and acquisitions and regulatory reform in the energy and public utility industry.

In 1996 he moved to Silicon Valley, where he has advised companies, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and investment bankers globally on mergers and acquisitions, SEC compliance, corporate governance and related matters.

His clients are primarily in three sectors — technology (semiconductors, software, internet, new media, games), life sciences (biotech, medical devices and bio-pharmaceuticals), and financial services.  He is currently a partner in the Silicon Valley transactional group of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, LLP, a large international law firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. and Boston, and he helped found the firm’s Silicon Valley office in Palo Alto in 2005.  Before that, he was a partner in the Silicon Valley offices of Weil Gotshal & Manges, a leading New York law firm, Brobeck Phleger & Harrison, a leading San Francisco-based law firm that dissolved in 2002, a victim of overexpansion during the internet bubble, and Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich, a pioneering law firm in the Silicon Valley venture capital and “start-up” practice.

Mr. Howard has extensive experience representing companies, investors and investment banks in mergers and acquisitions. He also provides strategic advice and counseling to senior managements and boards of public companies on matters ranging from transactions to corporate governance to SEC compliance. Before becoming a corporate lawyer, Mr. Howard was a securities and M&A litigator.  Mr. Howard has published numerous articles on M&A topics, is a frequent speaker on mergers and acquisitions.  Mr. Howard has been listed in various guides to leading lawyers, and has been selected as one of the Northern California’s “Super Lawyers” for four of the last five years.

Personally, Mr. Howard is the devoted father of two daughters, Alexandra, 13, and Christina, 10.  In his free time, he travels, skis, sails, writes, plays and composes for the piano.

Rod J. Howard – Self-Interview

Where did the interest in journalism come from? “Growing up I never expected to be a lawyer. I had journalism in my blood, and journalism was always my first passion.  I was editor of my high school paper, and pretty much learned how to write – grammar, style, spelling, the architecture of writing – from reading The New York Times every day.  My maternal grandfather was president of the printers union in New York at one time, and for many years my uncle was night city editor of the New York Daily News, then the largest circulation daily in the United States.  I spent “impeachment summer,” the summer of 1974, as a copy boy, running film to the newsroom from a darkened room where a photographer was taking grainy shots of Richard Nixon’s resignation speech on an old black-and-white television.  No digital technologies then – just paper, spikes, molten lead linotype machines, three-story-tall lead presses, and film pickups at train stations and airports.  It was more like the 19th century than the 21st century.” 

So with all that “ink in your blood,” why law school? “I went to law school not expecting to practice law, but thinking I would return to journalism, using what I learned in law school as a columnist.  My heroes were Russell Baker and James Reston of The New York Times, and my ambition was to be a columnist.  The early 1970s were a time of investigative reporting and activism, and I viewed journalism – and law – as agents of change.”

“Business, finance and Wall Street weren’t my ambition, but they turned out to be far more interesting than I ever expected.  And for a business lawyer, I have had some unusual opportunities to participate in social change, particularly in working with technology companies.  Technology has had dramatic social and political impact.  With wireless communication, mass storage, fast computing, handheld devices and the internet, every citizen has more access to more information than at any time in history.  Repressive governments still try to erect barriers, but technology has been an incredible leveling and democratizing force.”

“I think of my time in Germany in the mid-1980s,

before the Wall came down, when brave friends of mine risked imprisonment in East Germany to smuggle newspapers and news magazines in hollowed-out gas tanks and secret compartments in cars from the West to the East.  What a difference now.  It’s ironic, because if you think of novels from the first half of the 20th century — 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451 and the like — writers thought technology would be a tool of repression, not liberation.”Have journalism and The Daily Wildcat been useful to law school or lawyering? “The dedication to detail, the need to meet deadlines, the focus on facts, the attention to analysis, the importance of catching and holding readers’ interest, and the shape of a news report with its focus on key facts first — all of this pervades the work I have done as a lawyer.  The fact-finding of journalism and the fact-finding of the litigation side of the law (which I did for almost five years) have many similarities.  At the same time, I enjoy the role of an adviser and counselor.  As an adviser, I am less bound by historical facts and have more chance to create facts, future facts, by shaping what happens.  And that’s rewarding.”

Anything else about The Daily Wildcat? “The camaraderie among the Daily Wildcat staff was incredible, and the work was rewarding.  I took another path, but I still think of journalism as having a noble and vital mission, and The Daily Wildcat approached journalism with seriousness and professionalism.”


Anything else about the law? “Like journalism, a lot of variety and never a dull moment – it’s fast-paced and it’s possible to have an impact.  One thing I didn’t expect was that there would be as many changes as there have been.  But that’s a reflection of the “new normal” in business law.  Partners come and go, and seemingly strong and stable firms that have been around for 100 years, for generations, blow up.  Change is a constant.  What’s durable is what you carry with you, inside you – your skills, your knowledge and your relationships.  So maybe there’s another parallel to journalism.”

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