Alumni Interrogatory: B. Todd Jones '83
B. Todd Jones '83 has had a remarkable career, serving as U.S. attorney for Minnesota under two presidents, heading the ATF, and now serving as senior vice president and special counsel for the NFL in New York City. He also worked for eight years in private practice in Minneapolis and served as a commissioned officer in the Marine Corps.
It is an honor to serve as a U.S. attorney once, but you have had the rare honor of doing it twice—once in the Clinton administration and once in the Obama administration. What drew you to that role?
Public service has always been important to me. As my classmates recall, I joined the Marine Corps following law school and served on active duty for six years. Having the opportunity to serve as the U.S. attorney for Minnesota under two different administrations was the most satisfying professional honor of my life.
President Obama also appointed you to head the ATF. What was the experience of leading such an important federal agency like? How did your lawyer skills come into play?
Leading a law enforcement agency like ATF during a time of crisis for the bureau was a difficult and challenging experience. Prior to 2003, ATF was part of the Treasury Department, but it was moved to DOJ post-9/11. My professional background as a federal prosecutor proved invaluable in more fully integrating ATF into the fabric of the Justice Department and strengthening its focus and investigative processes.
Currently you are senior vice president and special counsel for conduct for the NFL. Can you describe that role?
My position at the NFL was created in 2015, and I am the first to fill it. While it was initially established to address prevention, training, investigation, and discipline for off-field misconduct by NFL players, it has evolved over the years. Currently we have oversight responsibility for enterprise risk management, including compliance and security.
What is a typical day for you working at the NFL?
This varies by the time of the year. During the football season we have the opportunity to travel and “work” NFL games across the country, usually focused on physical security protocols at our various stadium venues. During the “off-season” we visit each of our NFL team facilities, help manage security at both the NFL [scouting] combine and draft, and conduct training for rookie players. It’s a great job for a football fan.
Your job is based in NYC. How, if at all, has COVID impacted your day-to-day work and the matters you handle for the NFL?
The past year was a challenging one for everyone, and the NFL had a number of unique challenges. There was minimal travel the past year and we successfully completed playing a full season. Starting in September we worked in New York under strict COVID-19 protocols, and while there were some disciplinary matters, much of our effort in 2020 revolved around compliance.
Why do you think it’s important that there be diverse perspectives in the leadership circles of law, business, and government?
There’s no doubt in my mind that that any effective leader in our multicultural democracy must embrace respect for diversity and inclusion as a core principle for institutional success in the 21st century. Our challenges are many in the legal profession, but as one of the “healing” professions it is critical that lawyers take the lead in strengthening a civil society and ensuring that the rule of law in the United States endures.
Did you have a favorite experience—clinic, class, activity, etc.—at Minnesota Law that you would like to share?
There were several enduring friendships that were forged during my time in law school, and a number of them have endured over the last nearly 40 years. I have particularly fond recollections of my Frederick Douglass Moot Court experience and my first-year Section B classmates.
Minnesota Law seeks to cultivate lawyer-leaders. Can you describe what being a lawyer-leader means to you? What skills are most necessary?
I was fortunate to follow law school with service as a Marine Corps officer. These back-to-back experiences provided me with what I believe to be an unmatched education in both critical thinking skills and the fundamentals of leading people in times of difficulty and stress. Decision-making, communications, stress management, and flexibility are all skills which can be learned and built upon over time, and law school was an important part of laying the foundation for me.
How do you like to spend your free time?
My better half of over 40 years and I enjoyed the pre-COVID arts and dining scene of New York City after having successfully launched five wonderful adults. We are now looking forward to the next generation of our growing family.
In these stressful times, what do you do to promote wellness?
At this point in my life I have swapped out running for “power walking” in terms of continuing my acquired Marine physical training (PT) habit.
What are a few interesting items one might see on your desk or hanging on your office wall?
I have an interesting collection of sports icons and personal heroes such as Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Walter Payton, alongside the two presidents I was privileged to serve under, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, hanging on my office walls.
Anything else you’d like to share?
My favorite quote from Abraham Lincoln (every politician likes to quote him these days): “Whatever you are, be a good one.”