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Dechert Hires Kirkland Team Who Won Johnson & Johnson Trial (1)

April 27, 2020, 3:44 PMUpdated: April 27, 2020, 4:19 PM

Dechert has hired a team of former Kirkland & Ellis product liability and mass torts litigators led by Kimberly Branscome, who in December won a major California jury trial for Johnson & Johnson.

Branscome, who was an equity partner at Kirkland, will serve as managing partner of Dechert’s Los Angeles office, which opened in 2011 and houses about 10 lawyers. Dechert’s products liability group has about 70 lawyers.

Joining Branscome in the move are partner Jay Bhimani, counsel Benjamin Sadun, and associate Alli Ozurovich. The team of former Kirkland partners helped Johnson & Johnson earn a defense verdict in a 10-week jury trial related to a claim that the company’s baby powder led to mesothelioma.

Branscome has also represented 3M Co., Merck & Co., and Pfizer Inc. in federal cases, according to Bloomberg Law data. She also served as trial counsel for General Motors Co. in its ignition switch litigation.

Andrew Levander, chair Dechert’s policy committee, said in a statement the firm would look to continue growing its California presence.

Branscome was not looking to leave Kirkland, she said in an interview, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to grow a West Coast practice at Dechert. She said the details of the growth plan were still under discussion, but that she anticipates the firm would look to add “all types” of litigators in Southern California.

“Dechert’s platform in the products liability and mass torts space is in many ways unparalleled and I was really familiar with them,” Branscome said. “When they approached me about developing the products practice on the West Coast, that was an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often.”

Dechert’s hires come as most law firms are conserving cash in preparation for an economic downturn caused by Covid-19. But the Philadelphia-founded Dechert had a bumper 2019, growing its revenue more than 10% and seeing its profits per equity partner cross the $3 million mark, according to AmLaw data.

Kirkland is the world’s largest firm by revenue, doing more than $4 billion in business in 2019, and its highly selective equity partnership earns more than $5 million a year, AmLaw data shows.

Dechert’s Los Angeles office opened in 2011 with a four-lawyer group joining from Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe. In 2018, Dechert hired the Los Angeles-based former co-chair of Hughes Hubbard & Reed’s class action practice, David Stern.

“We enjoyed working with Kim, Jay and Ben and wish them luck in their careers,” a Kirkland spokeswoman said in a statement for the firm.

(Adds detail on associate hire, quote from Branscome interview.)

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

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

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