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Boies Schiller D.C. Leaders Dunn, Isaacson Jump to Paul Weiss

June 11, 2020, 6:53 PM

Boies Schiller has lost two prominent trial lawyers and firm leaders in Karen Dunn and William “Bill” Isaacson, who are joining Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in Washington.

Dunn and Isaacon join a slew of partners to recently decamp from the firm founded by David Boies in 1997, but their departures stand out as possibly the highest profile.

The attorneys work together often and have represented clients including Apple Inc., Oracle Corp., Facebook Inc., and Elon Musk’s Solar City Corp. Dunn led the defense of Uber Technologies Inc. in the ride share company’s high-stakes trade secrets case against Waymo, which settled at trial in 2018.

Isaacson was a founding member of Boies Schiller in 1997 and served as vice chairman of the firm. He is an established presence in antitrust litigation, and served as co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the 2014 case O’Bannon v. NCAA, which challenged the rules against paying college athletes.

Dunn joined the firm in 2014 and four years later was named to a four-person management committee. She previously served as counsel to President Barack Obama and was the deputy general counsel of his 2012 re-election campaign. Dunn was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia.

“We are thrilled to add to our partnership two of the country’s most renowned trial lawyers in ‘bet the company’ matters,” Paul, Weiss Chairman Brad Karp said in a statement. “Not only are Karen and Bill extraordinary talents with a national following, but they also share our deep commitment to social justice, collaboration and collegiality. This is a transformative opportunity for our firm.”

The hires will further bolster the roster of litigators in Paul, Weiss’ Washington office, which in 2019 hired Williams & Connolly partner and Supreme Court advocate Kannon Shanmugam. Paul, Weiss is among the most profitable law firms in the country. Its partners earned on average $4.7 million last year, compared to nearly $3.4 million at Boies Schiller, according to AmLaw rankings.

The 2018 creation of the four-member management committee Dunn served on was one of Boies Schiller’s earliest efforts to manage the transition away from the leadership of 79-year-old Boies. Nicholas Gravante was a member of that committee, and in 2019 was elevated to the position of co-managing partner alongside Natasha Harrison.

Boies also came under scrutiny in 2018 for his work on behalf of Harvey Weinstein and Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes.

Boies Lawyers Look for Exit

The firm has endured a raft of departures this year, including a 13-partner group in San Francisco that joined King & Spalding in April. Much of that group had joined Boies Schiller through a 2017 merger with litigation boutique Caldwell Leslie.

A dozen lawyers left Boies Schiller in January to form a new boutique litigation firm under the leadership of former Boies equity partner Jason Cyrulnik. Partners have since left for Vinson & Elkins and Jenner & Block, which has hired at least four Boies partners this year.

Gravante and Harrison in April told the Financial Times the firm is intentionally shrinking to focus on the most important cases and to develop more business outside of Boies’ practice.

In a statement, Dunn and Isaacson said they “will always be grateful” for the opportunities they received at Boies Schiller and said they expect they will “find ways to work together in the future.”

“BSF is a great law firm, with great lawyers and great new leadership,” the statement said. “We are sure that BSF and its leadership will continue to be a leader in serving both its private clients and the public interest.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Roy Strom in Chicago at rstrom@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Tom P. Taylor at ttaylor@bloomberglaw.com

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