Assembling a Rolling Locomotive

Jim Haynes’s counsel to many different clients makes him a source of stability in a time of great change at the next-generation IT company

When William J. “Jim” Haynes was asked by former President George W. Bush to be general counsel of the US Department of Defense, little did he know that he would become not only a wartime general counsel, but would also earn recognition as the longest-tenured Pentagon GC in history. He would go on to help guide the department through the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath over a seven-year tenure.

“It was a pivotal time in world history,” Haynes recalls. “We had to shape our country’s response to this new reality. It was a profound experience for a lawyer—and a heavy responsibility.”

There were many legal issues of first impression, yet they required reliance on historical examples, consideration of uncertain and complicated consequences, and the need to anticipate the unknown. That experience has helped with the launch of CSRA, the next-generation information technology company, where Haynes currently serves as executive vice president and general counsel. His colleagues recognize that his experience in helping to guide one of the world’s largest organizations through one of its most challenging times is a source of stability for the young company.

“Jim’s earlier service as in-house counsel in manufacturing (General Dynamics), energy (Chevron), and bio-tech (SIGA Technologies) is an incredible base of knowledge to draw on,” says CSRA president and CEO Larry Prior. “Add to that his government experience, and there’s almost nothing that can surprise him.”

“CSRA was an irresistible opportunity for me,” Haynes says. “A start-up built and run by brilliant people dedicated to bringing the latest information technology to government customers—what’s not to like? CSRA is an instant leader in an exciting industry, and it serves the public.”


James McMillan, a North Carolina federal judge, was instrumental in William J. Haynes’s career, particularly when it came to embodying the value of integrity. One of the landmark cases that McMillan presided over included Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education.

The 1971 case became a landmark ruling dealing with the busing of students to promote integration in public schools. The court ruled that busing was an appropriate remedy to alleviate the problem of racial imbalance in schools, even when the imbalance resulted from the selection of students based on geographic proximity to the school, as opposed to deliberate assignment based on race.

This was ordered to ensure that schools would be integrated and that all students would receive equal educational opportunities, regardless of their race.

Nearly two decades earlier, the US Supreme Court declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional as a result of Brown v. Board of Education, but the process of integrating public schools was met with resistance from some states in the South during that time.

Formed from a merger between a spin-off of Computer Sciences Corporation and SRA International, CSRA went public in late 2015. The company’s nearly 19,000 employees generate roughly $5 billion annually in revenue,  providing next-generation information technology solutions to every part of the federal government, from defense, intelligence, and homeland security to health and civil missions.

“I arrived just after this enormous organization had done a merge, a spin, and an IPO,” Haynes says with a laugh, “and so this first year has been a series of firsts.”

He describes the experience as akin to “helping assemble a rolling locomotive.”

“At the outset, there were few established ways of doing things,” he continues. “We’ve had to put in place policies and procedures as we go, and so, even though we’re a large company, we’re in many ways a start-up. Fortunately, our equally new board of directors is a team of superstars, and our management team gelled almost instantly.”

Haynes also credits the values he learned both growing up and in his legal career as having helped him navigate a steady course through his Pentagon tenure, over a storied private-sector career, and into today.

The value of integrity was particularly highlighted early in his career, when he clerked for North Carolina federal judge James McMillan, a mentor he recalls with fondness.

Presiding over the famous Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education busing desegregation case, McMillan’s example of pursuing what he believed the law required—in the face of being severely ostracized—continues to inspire Haynes.

“Judge McMillan taught me so much about the law, about the practice of law—both conceptually and practically,” Haynes says. “I found that, quite naturally, I relied on things I had learned early in life and early in my legal career: doing what you think is right, calling the law as you see it in the face of some pretty daunting pressures or currents or attitudes.”

However, the most important lesson Haynes learned from McMillan is that a general counsel must always “remember the role of the lawyer as advisor and counselor. Judge McMillan, an activist judge, used to tell me, tongue-in-cheek, ‘Jim, your job is to keep me from making an unintended error.’ That admonishment helps me honor the distinction between advisor and client.”

But whether in the public sector or the private sector, Haynes still views all of it as public service. “Applying our free enterprise system to help our government serve the people is important to me,” he says. “You can serve the public in a lot of different ways. We’re certainly serving the public at CSRA. We’re helping our federal customers—every agency you can think of—accomplish their various missions. We’re helping them serve the citizens in a better, more effective way. And, by doing so, we’re helping them save taxpayers’ money. That’s public service, and we’re proud to be a part of that.”

Morrison & Foerster:

“Jim combines broad legal experience with savvy business judgment. He’s calm in any storm and always asks the right questions. He is a credit to his company and to the profession. We’re privileged to be on his team.”

—J. Alex Ward, Co-Chair, Government Contracts & Public Procurement Practice