Forget Class-A office space, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan opened a new Atlanta office on Monday based out of the home of former Alston & Bird partner Debra Bernstein.
The firm announced Bernstein, a trial lawyer who Quinn Emanuel said has secured more than $1 billion in settlements on behalf of clients, joined in an early sign that major firms will be more aggressive moving into new cities after extended work-from-home experiences.
Bernstein focuses on major antitrust and class-action litigation. She has represented computer company Dell in multiple lawsuits, including as a plaintiff in cases pursuing price-fixing claims against suppliers of components including video screens and lithium batteries.
The hiring comes just weeks after Quinn Emanuel founder John Quinn told The American Lawyer his firm would be open to hiring prominent partners in cities where it does not have a formal office. Quinn said at the time he was in talks with lawyers in Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Austin, Texas.
The strategy is a significant departure from Big Law’s historical model, where major firms purchase Class-A office space and seek to build it out with a group of lawyers to make a splashy announcement. But office space considerations have been turned on their head with most lawyers having worked remotely since March.
“Right now there are no preconceived notions about the size of the office, but it is part of a strategic growth plan,” Bernstein said in an interview with Bloomberg Law. “Just like I’ve been doing for the last year I’ll continue to work from home, but the plan is to lease office space when folks feel comfortable working in an office again.”
Quinn Emanuel founder John Quinn said in a statement the firm would grow the office “consistent with our model.” He noted the firm opened in New York and London with just one or two lawyers before those became the firm’s largest offices inside and outside the U.S., respectively. The 800-plus lawyer firm is well-known for its litigation prowess, including plaintiff-side work that is less common among law firms its size.
Quinn Emanuel in 2019 had $1.25 billion in revenue and its partners earned on average more than $4.5 million, according to AmLaw data.
Working for Dell, Bernstein was one of the first lawyers to lead a plaintiff-side “opt-out” price-fixing claim, Quinn said. The term refers to the choice to forego participating in settlements negotiated by the Justice Department to pursue an individual claim. Bernstein also represents defendants in antitrust and other claims.
Pursuing price fixing claims as a plaintiff has since become popular across industries beyond computer parts. These types of cases are sweeping through the food industry, with major litigation alleging price fixing by suppliers of chickens and turkeys.
“That’s a large part of my practice, and it was one of the things that made it a perfect fit with Quinn Emanuel,” Bernstein said of price-fixing cases in general.