Latham & Watkins has hired Suzzanne Uhland, the former chair of O’Melveny & Myers’ U.S. restructuring practice, in the latest sign Big Law bankruptcy and restructuring practices are competing for leading talent.
Uhland, who is based in New York and San Francisco, served as a member of O’Melveny’s policy committee from 2009 through 2012. She has represented companies and creditors in Chapter 11 reorganizations and out of court restructurings.
Big Law firms have been preparing for a flood of bankruptcy and restructuring work as companies across industries are stressed to the breaking point from the economy’s idled response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Uhland’s hire is the latest addition from O’Melveny to Latham’s restructurings and special situations practice. Latham in 2018 hired George Davis and Andrew Parlen from O’Melveny in New York. Davis now serves as global chair of the firm’s restructuring practice. Last year, Latham hired former O’Melveny counsel Andrew Sorkin in Washington.
Uhland said in an interview she began discussing a move to Latham with Parlen in March at a social outing. After one in-person interview at Latham’s offices in late March—complete with elbow bumps rather than hand shakes—the firm’s offices closed and the recruiting continued via Zoom.
“Latham was just becoming this force in the restructuring area,” Uhland said. “And I was at a point in my career where I wanted to push forward and into a more international and dynamic practice.”
For its part, O’Melveny’s global restructuring practice continues to be led by John Rapisardi, who has been in that role since 2013. The firm has 10 bankruptcy practice partners, and serves as counsel to Puerto Rico’s government in the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. In 2018, the firm hired a trio of Greenberg Traurig restructuring partners led by Nancy Mitchell.
“We wish her well,” an O’Melveny spokesman said regarding Uhland’s departure.
Latham is the country’s second largest firm by revenue, according to AmLaw data, posting revenues of nearly $3.8 billion in 2019. Aside from tapping O’Melveny’s talent, the firm has also hired a number of restructuring professionals from Sidley Austin in the past two years. Those hires have included London-based Yen Sum and Jennifer Brennan and Los Angeles-based Jeffrey Bjork and Christina Craige.
Davis said Latham has 215 lawyers in its bankruptcy practice. The firm will continue to add to that roster with demand skyrocketing as the coronavirus takes a toll on companies’ bottom lines. The price of oil has also cratered amid the crisis.
“There are very few industries that aren’t materially impacted by those two things,” Davis said in an interview. “Energy I would say is a very busy industry, hospitality and lodging, too. With people staying at home, everything that is impacted by them not being out. Transportation, in all forms, we are certainly seeing. It’s pervasive.”
Suzanne said Monday would have been her first day at Latham, but the volume of work meant she started on Saturday.
“If you just asked the restructuring partners generally, they’d be telling you they are pretty tired right now because they are working very hard,” she said.
-- With assistance from Meghan Tribe.