As Barack Obama hits the campaign trail again, many pundits are wondering if he has enough political magic left to salvage the midterm elections for Democrats. A.J. Thomas, a partner in the downtown L.A. office of Chicago-based law firm Jenner & Block LLP, was there firsthand to see Obama’s first major political victory: getting elected president of the Harvard Law Review.

Thomas, 44, was a classmate of the future commander in chief at Harvard Law School and a fellow editor at the Law Review, and recalls Obama emerging victorious from an all-day “Survivor”-like election in 1990 that started with 30 candidates. Thomas was impressed with his ability to bridge the gap between the conservative and liberal factions of the Law Review.

“I voted for him twice for president,” Thomas said. “And I think I’ll vote for him again for re-election, though a lot can happen in two years.”

Thomas said he doesn’t have any particularly remarkable memories about Obama’s stint as review president, only that he did a good job overall and proved to be quite the basketball player during pickup games.

“I was a little short and slow,” he said with a laugh. “He had a nice shot and was a scrappy player.”

Thomas isn’t the only partner in Jenner’s L.A. office with a presidential connection. His office is next to that of Kenneth K. Lee, former associate counsel to President George W. Bush.

Making a Stretch

When Julie Locke wanted to promote her company, a law software firm named Epiq Systems, she met with an investment banker through an introduction from her Pilates instructor.

The get-together at Starbucks didn’t turn out as she anticipated. The investment banker asked her to serve on the board of the Southern California Counseling Center, an organization Locke had never heard of.

“I expected he would tell me which networking groups to join,” she recalled. “Instead he said, ‘I think you would be good fit for the SCCC board.’ It was all through Pilates, not because I was into therapy or even knew this place existed.”

A year after that meeting, Locke, 35, is serving on the 15-person board of the organization, which provides counseling to those who can’t afford it elsewhere and trains therapists to deal with this underserved population.

Although she admits that she had no attachment to any non-profit cause, she now feels extremely passionate about the center – and especially its board – as a counterbalance to her career.

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