There’s a commonality between being an athlete and being a lawyer. When you’re in team sports, it’s not about you, it’s about the team achieving a goal. One of the things I really like about V&E is there’s a team culture, it’s not a ‘me first’ culture, and our goal is to serve our clients as best we can.
You might say Richard Sofield’s path to becoming a leading CFIUS lawyer started with a visit to the school library in second grade. That was when he checked out a biography of John F. Kennedy from the school library and discovered that he shared a birthday with the country’s 35th president.
“Then and there I decided that since JFK had gone to Harvard, I would go to Harvard,” Sofield said. “Since he had been a lawyer, maybe I would become a lawyer, too. He said to ‘ask what you can do for your country’, so I thought I could serve the country in government.”
Sure enough, Sofield would get his B.A. from Harvard—and he ultimately would become a nationally recognized attorney with nearly three decades of experience in U.S. national security legal and public policy matters.
Now Sofield, who spent the first 24 years of his career working for the government before going into private practice, is bringing his skills and experience to Vinson & Elkins. After spending three years at Wiley Rein, where he led the firm’s CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States) practice group, he joined Vinson & Elkins in September as a partner in the firm’s National Security Reviews (CFIUS), Export Controls & Economic Sanctions practice.
Sofield’s arrival comes at a time when national security reviews have become more frequent and complex, and demand for lawyers who specialize in CFIUS is growing.
CFIUS is a group of government agencies that reviews the potential national security impact of foreign investments in U.S. companies. The passage in 2018 of the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA), significantly expanded CFIUS’ authority and power.
Sofield makes a natural fit for Vinson & Elkins, whose private equity clients are often engaged in cross-border transactions requiring CFIUS reviews. “My goals are to continue the development of the practice, and to build upon the strong team that we have at Vinson & Elkins,” Sofield said.
When it comes to national security reviews, Sofield has plenty of experience sitting at both sides of the table. Earlier in his career, he spent more than two decades at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), including a ten-year stint as the Director of the Foreign Investment Review Staff for DOJ’s National Security Division.
In this role, he oversaw DOJ’s participation in CFIUS, including the review of more than 1,000 acquisitions and efforts to prohibit multiple transactions on national security grounds. He also served as Chair of Team Telecom, the national security review apparatus for foreign investment in entities regulated by the FCC.
“That insight allows me to help clients better anticipate and prepare for CFIUS reviews,” he said.
Over the years, Sofield has worked closely on matters in both the public and private sectors with the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the National Intelligence Council, the National Security Council, the Executive Office of the President and the U.S. Departments of Treasury, Defense, Homeland Security, State, Commerce and Energy, as well as other agencies evaluating foreign investment-related issues.
When he’s not practicing law, Sofield enjoys sports. He appreciates sailing and coaching team sports.
“There’s a commonality between being an athlete and being a lawyer,” he said. “When you’re in team sports, it’s not about you, it’s about the team achieving a goal. One of the things I really like about V&E is there’s a team culture, it’s not a ‘me first’ culture, and our goal is to serve our clients as best we can.”
Sofield frequently offers career advice to young people, drawing on lessons he has learned from sailing.
“The path to being successful is never a straight line,” he said. “As in sailing, sometimes you have to ‘tack’—turn the bow of the boat through the wind. Keep making those course adjustments, be flexible, and adapt to changing winds and changing tides.”