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Member Spotlight: Eric Beste

By: Sarah Goldwasser*


A photo of Eric Beste, Partner-in-Charge at Barnes & Thornburg, LLP's San Diego office.
Eric Beste

Introduction

The FBA is delighted to share a spotlight on member Eric J. Beste, the partner-in-charge of Barnes & Thornburg’s San Diego office.


Beste is a white-collar litigator whose career in San Diego spans more than two decades, on both sides of the courtroom. He is a decorated attorney (Top White Collar Lawyers, Daily Journal, 2023; Most Influential San Diegans, San Diego Business Journal, 2023; The Best Lawyers in America, 2024) and a leader in the local legal community. 


Path to the Law

Beste’s legal career began with a pivot in college. While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, with plans to become a psychologist, Beste traveled to Oxford to study abroad. In his philosophy and psychology classes there, Beste befriended British classmates who were studying to become solicitors or barristers. Beste, who didn’t have lawyers in his family, was intrigued by the subjects his classmates were studying, such as contracts and torts.  

 

At Oxford, his philosophy classes followed a Socratic-style “tutorial” method where students handwrote essays, read them aloud to the class, and were then subject to questioning. In hindsight, those classes prepared him for legal studies. “I was IRAC-ing before I even knew what that was,” Beste recounted, referring to a legal analysis method that stands for Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion. When he returned to America, he applied to law school. 


Early Legal Career

At Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, Beste connected with his classmates and professors. In particular, Beste found a mentor in Professor Martin Redish, a constitutional law scholar whom Beste says is “engaging, funny, and extraordinarily bright.” They keep in touch, and Beste occasionally sees Professor Redish on visits to Chicago.

 

As a law student, Beste began asking around—which types of lawyers are the happiest in their jobs? The answer that kept coming up: becoming a federal prosecutor. So Beste, who is from New York, applied to a summer internship at the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) in San Diego. 

 

That summer, Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Halpern took Beste under his wing in the Major Frauds and Special Prosecutions Section of the USAO, and helped instill in Beste an affinity for frauds prosecutions. “In those cases, the facts are not necessarily in dispute—what goes to trial is the issue of intent. And the opposing counsel are typically very skilled. The entire field is very intellectually challenging,” Beste said.

 

After law school, Beste clerked for Chief District Judge Marvin E. Aspen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, then joined the U.S. Department of Justice through the Honors Program in the Criminal Division’s Fraud section. In the Fraud section, Beste traveled across the country and sometimes the globe to prosecute high-profile fraud cases. His highlights from that time included indicting and attempting to extradite from Spain a former senior vice president from General Motors for stealing trade secrets, trying a West Virginia domestic terrorism case, convicting the owner of a nursing home chain in Virginia for health care fraud, and prosecuting city councilman in Cleveland, Ohio, on corruption charges. 


Career in San Diego

In 2003, Beste decided he no longer wanted to travel the country as a Justice Department attorney, but instead wanted to practice his craft in one courthouse. He chose to return to San Diego. Back at the USAO, he served as a federal prosecutor for more than 16 years. His time there was invaluable in helping him understand the inner workings of the federal judicial system, and how government investigations are run. Beste’s prosecutions included securities fraud, corporate malfeasance, domestic and foreign corruption, tax crimes, defense procurement fraud, government contracting offenses, Bank Secrecy Act and Anti-Money Laundering violations, financial institution crimes, and healthcare fraud. He was a supervisor during a period of high-profile fraud prosecutions in the Southern District of California. In 2018, Beste was awarded the DOJ Assistant Attorney General’s Exceptional Service Award.

 

In 2019, Chuck La Bella, Beste’s former colleague at the Fraud Section, encouraged him to join the white-collar practice at the newly opened San Diego office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP. Beste has been there ever since and is now partner-in-charge of the San Diego office. In this role, Beste represents corporations and individuals facing domestic and international investigations and enforcement actions, and his practice focuses on trial-bound white-collar defense, internal investigations and compliance, and complex business litigation. At Barnes & Thornburg, Beste has litigated cases in the Northern, Central, Eastern, and Southern Districts of California, and recently tried a civil case in Superior Court in San Diego. Beste enjoyed the experience and noted “subtle but important differences” between state and federal courts.

 

Beste is waiting for his first trial in federal district court in San Diego since entering private practice, and notes that there have been “many great additions to the bench” over the last few years, including several of his former colleagues from the USAO.


Community Involvement and the FBA

A photo of RISE San Diego, a local non-profit, receiving a $50,000 grant check from Eric Beste and other members of Barnes & Thornburg.
Beste (far right) helped advance Barnes & Thornburg’s commitment to racial and social justice through the firm’s $50k grant to RISE San Diego, a local non-profit that seeks to elevate and advance urban leadership through dialogue-based civic engagement.

Beste, a father of three, still finds time to be involved in the local legal community and beyond. He taught a white-collar crime class at the University of San Diego School of Law, and reflected on how inquisitive students “make you question what you know.” Beste also taught constitutional litigation as an adjunct professor at his alma mater, Northwestern Law School, alongside Federal District Judge Edmond E. Chang. 

 

Beste appreciates how the Federal Bar Association creates opportunities to stay connected with other attorneys. His favorite event is the Pete Mazza Fundraiser and Golf Tournament. “I invite people to that event even after they’re no longer in the district,” he said. 

 

As someone who used to go on runs with opposing counsel, Beste is an advocate for socializing on “both sides of the courtroom,” and cites FBA events as great opportunities to do so. Beste counts former FBA-San Diego Presidents Joe Leventhal and Hon. Michelle Pettit as his friends whose “service through FBA is exemplary, and people whom I want to emulate.” He admires FBA members who are “committed to making the system work better, fairly, and with civility.” 


* Sarah Goldwasser is a Public Relations Committee Member of the Federal Bar Association’s San Diego Chapter. She represents the United States in criminal matters as an Assistant United States Attorney. Prior to the joining the Department of Justice Department, she clerked in the Southern District of Texas.

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