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In late 2021, we were thrilled to welcome Elizabeth N. Jochum in our Washington, D.C., office as a partner in the Government Contracts practice. A skilled litigator and counselor with a significant background in white collar defense and investigations matters, Elizabeth joined Blank Rome from Smith Pachter McWhorter PLC, where she was a partner.
Elizabeth advocates for government contractors in bid protests before the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims as well as handles appeals before the Armed Services and Civilian Boards of Contract Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. She also represents contractors in size protests, determinations, and appeals before the Small Business Administration. Elizabeth advises prime contractors and subcontractors on a range of matters, including regulatory compliance, contract negotiation, due diligence for mergers and acquisitions, and change and claim preparation.
Now that she has settled in at Blank Rome, we took a few minutes to chat with Elizabeth to find out more about her background, interests, and approach to client service. Here are the highlights, so that you can get to know her!
Welcome (again) to Blank Rome! We are so excited to have you on our team! What brought you to Blank Rome?
Thank you! I am so thrilled to be here, the transition has been incredibly smooth thanks to how welcoming the firm and group have been to my clients and me. I was drawn to Blank Rome because of the government contracts group’s incredible reputation. I have also had the opportunity to work with several members of the group on various matters and speaking engagements so had no doubt they were exactly the kind of smart, business-minded, and collegial people I hoped to work with. I also wanted to offer my clients a broader range of support outside of government contracts—particularly on labor & employment and corporate issues. Blank Rome has incredible capabilities in those areas as well.
How did you first get interested in government contracts law? We hear you had a different career before law school…
It’s true, I am one of the very few people to ever have gone to law school with the intention of practicing government contracts law! I always wanted to be a reporter growing up and started my career at Government Executive magazine covering the Department of Homeland Security. Shortly after joining the magazine, they reshuffled assignments and I was put on the government contracts beat. To be honest, I was pretty disappointed, I didn’t even know what government contracts was and it certainly didn’t seem as cool as homeland security to my 22-year-old self! But it was incredibly fortuitous and as I noticed my coverage naturally starting to gravitate towards interesting legal issues in govcon, law school became a clear path.
What do you enjoy most about your practice area?
I love that I have the opportunity to help clients grow their businesses. Whether it’s winning a protest that may give them a contract win or navigating strategic teaming opportunities, I view my job as keeping as many options open for growth as possible. I also love learning about the incredible things our clients do and that the government is buying. We get the chance to dive deep into everything from weapons systems to IT to various widgets. There’s always something new to learn in this field.
You have developed significant experience in the area of bid protests, among other things; how did you first get interested in this specialized area?
I just have always loved doing protests, since my first year as an associate. They’re ultra-fast, high-stakes litigation where you have to quickly get up to speed on the facts, find and apply the best possible case law, and meanwhile understand your client’s goals and how various arguments will best position them to reach those goals.
What do you see as major challenges government contractors should be mindful of heading into 2022?
Assuming the vaccine requirement remains dead, I think cybersecurity and software supply chain integrity are going to be one of the main focus areas for contractors. Whether through executive order, FAR changes, contract mods, or other mechanisms, the government is demanding increased monitoring, avoidance, and reporting of cyber incidents. We’re also continuing to watch for an anticipated increase in False Claims Act enforcement around contractor representations that they meet cybersecurity requirements.
How would you describe your client service philosophy?
Be solutions oriented. Of course, my clients are looking for accurate legal counseling and advocacy in litigation, but they’re also looking for me to step back and think about how that counseling and litigation will affect them from a business perspective. I focus my client service philosophy on keeping clients’ business goals top of mind and consulting with them on whether and how various legal options will help get them closer to those goals.
Okay, now on to some more serious subjects: What do you like to do for fun?
I love to travel, cook, play cards with my husband, and run around with my kids (almost 4 and almost 2). We’re currently in the thick of a Star Wars obsession at our house, so we spend a LOT of time chasing “Storm Troopers” and having lightsaber fights.
What advice do you have for more junior attorneys in the field? Find a practice area you love and learn the business side of it. There’s nothing more valuable to a client than an attorney who understands what the client does and what their goals are. We can’t be integral in helping them achieve those goals without a real sense of what they are. And for parents—don’t be afraid to work the “split shift.” If there are times of the day you need to carve out for family obligations (or family fun!), it absolutely can be done with the right communication to supervisors and clients. Especially now, people really understand that work can get done on different schedules and in different places.