Running a Federal Agency: A Conversation with Julius Genachowski and Jonathan Zittrain

Former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski '91 (left) with Professor Jonathan Zittrain

Former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski ’91 (left) with Professor Jonathan Zittrain

Harvard Law School Professor Jonathan Zittrain ’95 sat down for a conversation with Julius Genachowski ’91, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and partner and managing director of The Carlyle Group, in April.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Genachowski, who recently served as inaugural holder of the Steven and Maureen Klinsky Professorship of Practice for Leadership and Progress, recapped his career. Genachowski said diversity has been an asset in all his work, and in each position he has learned lessons that helped him in the next job. He clerked for Justice David Souter `66, worked on the Iran-Contra investigatory committee, served as chief of business operations at IAC/InterActiveCorp, and was the chairman of the FCC. During the conversation, Genachowski encouraged law students not to be afraid to make a few mistakes, emphasizing that in a job that requires making decisions, failure is inevitable.

“Don’t be afraid of mistakes. Recognize them before other people do, and learn something from them and be able to tell people about it,” he said. “You’ll find that people are fine with that.”

The talk, sponsored by the Dean’s Office, was part of the “Boss & Counsel” series, an HLS series on client/lawyer relations featuring CEOs and their lawyers. Other speakers who participated in the series included Michael Fertik, CEO of Reputation.com and one of Harvard Law School’s Experts in Residence at the Harvard Innovation Lab; Larry Lucchino, President and CEO of the Boston Red Sox, and David Friedman, Senior Vice President/Special Counsel for the Boston Red Sox.

Genachowski served as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission from June 2009 to May 2013, focusing the agency on unleashing the opportunities of wired and wireless broadband. Genachowski also expanded the FCC’s international engagement, travelling to 22 countries to engage international counterparts and stakeholders.

He served on the Council of the Administrative Conference of the United States. President Barack Obama ’91 also named Genachowski to lead the U.S. delegation to Poland for the commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Genachowski worked for many years in senior positions in the private sector, helping build IAC/InterActiveCorp, which owned and operated multiple Internet and media businesses, including Expedia, Ticketmaster, and USA Network.

Genachowski served as a law clerk to Justice Souter and Justice William J. Brennan `31 on the U.S. Supreme Court. He also clerked for Chief Judge Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

He graduated magna cum laude from Columbia College in 1985. Prior to coming to HLS, he served on the staff of the Select Committee investigating the Iran-Contra Affair. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1991.