Mr. Emhoff had connections to the entertainment industry, including through his first wife, Kerstin Emhoff, co-founder of the Los Angeles production company Prettybird. But he wasn’t necessarily enchanted by Hollywood, said Mr. Weingarten, whom Mr. Emhoff tried, unsuccessfully, to recruit to the boutique firm. “It was just a general commercial litigation practice,” Mr. Weingarten said, adding, “I don’t think Doug was out specifically hunting for entertainment clients, any more than, you know, trying to make a living and looking for clients.”
But his friends said he wanted to be a part of something bigger, and he convinced his partners to sell the firm in 2006 to the corporate law giant Venable, which was looking to build a presence on the West Coast. Aaron H. Jacoby, one of Mr. Emhoff’s former partners at the boutique firm, initially opposed the sale, but eventually came around. Mr. Emhoff, he said, “is a persuasive guy. He is the type of guy — I don’t mean this in a bad or nefarious way — but he gets what he wants.”
Mr. Emhoff became a partner at Venable, eventually moving into a management role in which he oversaw the firm’s Los Angeles office and the opening of a new San Francisco office. He also recruited lawyers, and made a second run, this time successful, at Mr. Weingarten, who remains at Venable today.
“He is directly responsible for the success that we have enjoyed in L.A. and the success that we are enjoying in San Francisco,” said Mr. Weingarten.
At Venable, Mr. Emhoff represented Willie Gault, the former Olympic sprinter and N.F.L. star, in a fraud case brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was immersed in a multimillion dollar legal battle involving the Taco Bell Chihuahua.
More recently, while at DLA Piper, he represented Mauricio Umansky, the husband of Kyle Richards, one of the stars of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, in a real estate dispute with the vice president of Equatorial Guinea.
In 2009, Mr. Emhoff’s first wife filed for divorce.
Mr. Emhoff met Ms. Harris on a blind date in 2013, when she was California’s attorney general, and they were married in a quiet civil ceremony the following year. They now share three residences: a four-bedroom stucco home valued at $5 million in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles and apartments in San Francisco and Washington.