Sandra C. Goldstein, a leading litigator in the mergers and acquisitions area, is heading to the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP as a partner in its litigation practice group.
She leaves her longtime home at elite firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, where she was once head of litigation.
Stefan Atkinson, who was an associate in Cravath’s litigation practice, will also make the move to Kirkland, where he will be an equity partner.
Earlier this year Kirkland snapped up Cravath partner Eric Schiele, another top mergers and acquisitions litigator with a stellar roster of clients including Disney and Time Warner.
The movement of Wall Street firm partners comes as firms like Cravath are sticking to the traditional lock-step pay structure—whereby lawyers are paid based on seniority rather than merit-based metrics like origination credit—while other major firms are increasingly willing to cut more lucrative compensation deals with the legal top-hitters that they want to hire.
Goldstein’s hire is part of a steady effort by Kirkland to add to its mergers and acquisition ranks. It is handling major cases such as Wyndham Worldwide Corp.’s $1.95 billion acquisition of La Quinta Holdings Inc. and Spectrum Brand Holdings Inc.’s agreement to sell its battery business to Energizer Holdings Inc. for $2 billion.
Goldstein has worked with clients including Barnes & Noble, CBS, IBM, J. Crew, and Martin Marietta. Her litigation background also includes securities and commercial disputes .
Kirkland has 700 lawyers domestically and overseas who work on litigation matters.
“Kirkland’s growth of the firm’s transactional practice and volume of high-profile deals provides an excellent opportunity. It already has one of the premier practices in litigation,” Goldstein said in a phone interview.
She said she wanted to “advance the firm’s capabilities to handle cutting-edge litigation matters related to transactions, governance, and other significant issues facing corporations and their boards of directors.”
She is among the relatively few women lawyers who appear in courtrooms as lead counsel. In motions practice, she has won over a dozen favorable decisions after oral argument.
Among legal victories that Goldstein singled out was her representation of Barnes & Noble’s defense against an effort by an activist shareholder to obtain more shares and install candidates on the bookseller’s board. The “poison pill” defense was upheld in 2010 in the Delaware Court of Chancery.
Jeffrey C. Hammes, chairman of Kirkland’s global management executive committee, praised Goldstein as “one of the country’s foremost litigation lawyers, having led numerous high-profile and complex cases spanning M&A, securities and commercial disputes.”
Goldstein was a 30-year veteran of Cravath, having joined it after graduating from New York University School of Law.
Atkinson has experience litigating a range of complex matters including shareholder disputes, mergers and acquisition litigation, and antitrust claims. His clients have included Xerox, Barnes & Noble, The Williams Companies, and Qualcomm.
A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, Ann Arbor, Mich., he also clerked at the federal district court and federal appeals court levels.
((Corrected to properly reflect Atkinson’s previous position.))
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