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McDermott Adds Life Sciences Lawyer in Office-Less San Diego (1)

March 11, 2021, 6:32 PMUpdated: March 11, 2021, 8:50 PM

Douglas Carsten, a trial lawyer with a prominent life sciences practice, is joining McDermott Will & Emery from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, marking another hire in one of the hottest industries for Big Law recruiting.

Carsten had served as the head of Wilson Sonsini’s San Diego litigation group, according to his LinkedIn profile, which says he is now a partner at McDermott.

He has represented pharmaceutical companies including Mylan N.V. and Aerpio Pharmaceuticals, as well as biotech companies such as BioSpyder Technologies and Fluidigm Corp.

The move is another example of Big Law firms’ recent willingness to hire lawyers in cities where they don’t have formal office space—a trend that started thanks to firms’ success with remote work during the pandemic. Carsten is based in San Diego, where McDermott closed shop in 2011.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan is another major firm that has signaled its openness to hire lawyers in cities without an office location. The firm last month hired trial lawyer Debra Bernstein in Atlanta, where she will work from home at least temporarily. DLA Piper’s chair, Frank Ryan, told Bloomberg Law his firm would also be receptive to the idea.

Carsten will primarily work from home and will commute to the firm’s Orange County location in Irvine, Calif., once the firm’s offices begin to open. Carsten said in an interview he is “hopeful” the firm could recruit more partners in San Diego that would justify opening an office in the future.

“It is one of the ways in which Covid has forced the legal industry to change dramatically in the last year, and we are still able to provide high levels of client service and do extraordinary work remotely,” Carsten said. “The presence of a physical office is not as critical as it once was.”

Carsten has tried and won several billion-dollar patent cases involving biologicals and biosimilars, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, diagnostic products, retail products, and computer software, according to an announcement of the move sent out by Larry Watanabe, a veteran San Diego-based legal recruiter, who advised Carsten on the deal.

Life sciences partners have been in high demand to start the year. Through January, there have been 23 lateral moves in the health care space, a 10% increase from the previous three-year average, according to an analysis of lateral moves by Decipher, which does due diligence for Big Law hiring.

McDermott reported a blowout financial performance in 2020, according to The American Lawyer, with revenue growth of nearly 18% to nearly $1.4 billion. Profits per equity partner surged more than 25% to $2.5 million.

McDermott has a long track record in the life sciences industry. Its practice was founded by Boston-based partner Byron Kalogerou, who has represented companies including Biogen Inc., Johnson & Johnson, and Takeda Pharmaceuticals.

Bill Gaede, a McDermott partner who focuses on intellectual property litigation in the life sciences and medical device industries, said McDermott added more than 40 partners in 2020.

“Bringing on a partner of Doug’s caliber will really help us move forward in advancing our life sciences litigation work,” Gaede said.

For its part, Wilson Sonsini, long close to Silicon Valley and startup clients, has also enjoyed success in the biotech and pharmaceutical practices. Last month, the firm expanded its life sciences group in Boston with the addition of Ropes & Gray partner Mark Bellomy.

Carsten holds a master’s degree in organic chemistry from Harvard University, which underpins his long-term interest in his science-based practice. He said the life sciences practice has grown in importance to law firms as the stakes have grown for the industry to protect and secure intellectual property for its products.

“I’m glad the market has finally come around to what I saw long ago, which is life sciences is where it’s at,” he said.

(Updates with information from interview with Carsten, Gaede.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Roy Strom in Chicago at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at
John Hughes in Washington at