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Paul Weiss Bolsters San Francisco Play With Partner Additions

Jan. 20, 2021, 5:00 PM

Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison is expanding in Northern California with the addition of four partners from Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe and Kirkland & Ellis, who will help open a San Francisco office.

Orrick’s Melinda Haag, Walter Brown, and Randy Luskey are joining as partners in Paul Weiss’ litigation department, while Kirkland M&A partner Jeremy Veit is joining as a partner in the corporate department.

The new hires show the firm is forging ahead to establish a Northern California presence, a notoriously difficult market for Wall Street firms.

Brad Karp, the firm’s chairman, said in June that Paul Weiss had been eyeing San Francisco after the firm poached Boies Schiller litigators Karen Dunn and Bill Isaacson, a prominent Washington, D.C. pair whose client list includes Apple Inc., Oracle Corp., and Facebook Inc.

“This is the culmination of years of thoughtful planning,” Karp told Bloomberg Law on Wednesday.

Karp is known for landing deals that have helped build the firm’s presence in key practices and geographies like appellate litigation in Washington and public company M&A in New York. He said the firm looked to expand West based on client demand, as it has deepened relationships with Northern California and Bay Area clients in big tech and in the private equity space over the past several years.

“We are fortunate that our business in the Bay Area has been exploding,” Karp said. “Based on discussions with key clients, we believe that having an office on the ground will only enhance our capabilities and success.”

The First Step

“When we drew up a list of who we wanted to build this office around, this group of lawyers was at the top of our list,” Karp said.

Haag began her career as a litigation associate at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher in 1987 and then served as assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California in Los Angeles. She joined a San Francisco boutique firm in 1993, before being tapped by then U.S. Attorney Robert Mueller to serve as chief of the white-collar section of the Justice Department’s San Francisco office.

Haag first joined Orrick as a litigation partner in 2003. In 2010 she was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as U.S. attorney for Northern District of California, where she supervised more than 130 lawyers in export enforcement, computer intrusions and intellectual property theft, and securities fraud, among other matters, before rejoining the firm in 2016.

Brown, the former chair of Orrick’s white-collar criminal defense practice, focuses his practice on complex business litigation, white collar criminal defense and crisis management.

Luskey, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of California, has represented clients in healthcare fraud matters, complex class actions and cases brought under the False Claims Act.

Haag, Brown and Luskey in January 2020 secured an acquittal for former Jawbone executive Katherine Mogal of criminal charges that alleged she took trade secrets from the now-defunct fitness device maker when she left the company to join Fitbit.

The firm “has put together an all-star team for our Bay Area clients facing business-critical litigation and government oversight,” Dunn said in a statement. The group includes Isaacson and fellow former Boies Schiller partner Meredith Dearborn, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and Jeannie Rhee, a deputy assistant attorney general and member of Mueller’s 2017 special counsel team, along with other Paul Weiss partners.

Veit first joined Kirkland & Ellis in 2002 from Cravath Swaine & Moore when it opened its San Francisco office, becoming a partner in 2006. He has since built a practice that focuses on all aspects of private equity transactions, including leveraged acquisitions of public and private targets, and has experience in public and private securities offerings, fund formation, executive compensation, and general corporate matters.

He has represented the likes of Golden Gate Capital and its portfolio company LiveVox, FFL Partners, and JH Partners.

Paul Weiss expects to add talent in the litigation white collar and private equity spaces, Karp said.

“This is the first step,” Karp said. “Having made it known that we were opening an office in Northern California, we have been inundated with resumes from stars in the market. The interest has been intense. I expect that you’ll see a number of additional hires in the months to come.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Meghan Tribe in New York at mtribe@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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