Who was Tim Coleman?

Timothy J. Coleman, Esq., a former federal prosecutor and highly respected member of the white-collar defense bar, died in Washington, DC on November 3, 2015. He was 51.

Born in Covington, Kentucky, Coleman brought a passionate and charismatic personality to a career that spanned New York and Washington, and included some of the legal profession’s most storied institutions. Coleman studied law at the Georgetown University Law Center, where he met his beloved wife, Maureen.

He spent the first seven years of his career at New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore and the next eight years with the U.S. Department of Justice, including six as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. As a senior member of the Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force, he investigated and tried a number of important cases, including the successful securities fraud prosecution of Adelphia Communications and its executives in a series of corporate accounting scandals that culminated in the downfall of Enron. Coleman was known as a tough and dogged prosecutor, but widely liked and highly respected for his creativity, integrity, and professionalism by colleagues and courtroom adversaries alike.

In 2003 Coleman was recruited to work at the Department of Justice in Washington, and ultimately became senior counsel to FBI Director James Comey, who at the time served as Deputy Attorney General of the United States. In that role, Coleman led the President’s Corporate Fraud Task Force and the Enron Task Force, oversaw the Department’s Criminal Fraud Section, and helped develop the department’s process for deferred prosecution agreements used in corporate criminal matters.

In 2005, Coleman returned to private practice as a partner in the Washington office of Dewey Ballantine, which appointed him head of the firm’s white-collar practice group, and continued at Dewey & LeBoeuf, after the 2007 merger with LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & McRae. While there, Coleman negotiated a $98 million health care fraud settlement with the U.S. government and was also recognized as the firm’s Mentor of the Year for his significant contributions to counseling and teaching young associates at the firm.

Coleman was recruited to join one of the world’s leading international firms, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, in 2010. He had impressed the founder of the firm’s U.S. litigation and investigations practice with his thorough-but-fair approach when they faced each other in a major prosecution while Coleman was an assistant United States attorney. Coleman helped build the firm’s U.S. presence—quadrupling the size of its Washington litigation group in just five years. The position offered Coleman a chance to develop his white-collar legal practice with a greater focus on cross-border matters that were both professionally rewarding and complementary to his fondness for travel and foreign cultures.

Described by colleagues as deeply kind, creative, and full of joy, Coleman was known to play occasional pranks in his ongoing quest to make the practice of law fun and rewarding for those who worked alongside him. At 6’5”, Coleman was a towering and energetic presence who was always armed with a smile and a kind word. He took great pride in recognizing and celebrating his colleagues’ personal and professional accomplishments ahead of his own.

An exceptionally generous mentor, Coleman was always careful to introduce junior colleagues as working with him—not for him. He was an active participant in the Edward Bennett Williams American Inn of Court, an organization that fosters collegiality and professional development among attorneys. Of all his professional honors and accomplishments, Coleman was perhaps proudest to have inspired and mentored a new generation of attorneys to become ethical stewards of the profession that he held so dear.

Coleman was a member of the American Inns of Court Board of Trustees, a distinguished lawyer, a good friend, and he was instrumental in getting the National Advocacy Training Program off the ground. We remember him fondly and have established a scholarship in his honor to cover tuition for a worthy young lawyer who could not otherwise afford to participate.

Coleman had a profound devotion to his family. He spoke often and adoringly of his wife Maureen, son Christopher and daughter Claire, who were his greatest joys in life.