Baker McKenzie has added three more lawyers to a financial regulation and enforcement practice that launched in October and has become a rare women-dominated group in Big Law.
Two of the latest hires, Rebecca Leon and Jennifer Connors, were previously partners at Holland & Knight. Mark Fitterman, who joined Baker McKenzie last month, joined the firm as a senior counsel from Morgan Lewis, where he’d practiced for more than two decades.
For Leon and Fitterman, the move to Baker McKenzie will be a reunion with Jennifer Klass, whom the pair worked with at Morgan Lewis. Klass left that firm for Baker McKenzie in October alongside Amy Greer and Peter Chan to launch a new financial regulation and enforcement group that Greer and Klass co-lead. The firm’s North America CEO, Colin Murray, said in a statement that building the practice is a “key strategic priority” for the firm.
Five of the seven lawyers Baker McKenzie has hired for the new practice are women, and all of the women are partners. Women make up less than a quarter of law firm partners in the U.S., according to the National Association for Law Placement.
Miami-based Leon and New York-based Connors said they were drawn to Baker McKenzie by the opportunity to build out a new practice at a global firm and to do it with partners they have worked with before. Fitterman is based in Washington.
“The platform that Baker McKenzie offers is really unparalleled,” Connors said in an interview. “Especially for financial services firms and many fintech firms. There is really a global focus for a lot of those firms.”
Baker McKenzie on Wednesday also announced the hire of transactional partner John Murphy from DLA Piper in its Miami office.
Leon counsels broker-dealers and other financial services clients on state and federal securities laws issues and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) compliance. She also has a practice advising broker-dealers, asset managers, banks, and other financial institutions on how to structure their non-U.S. operations in compliance with foreign laws.
Connors has served as a senior in-house lawyer at financial institutions including E-Trade Financial Corp., Goldman Sachs, and Lehman Brothers. She advises financial services companies on matters including securities offering requirements, registration and status issues, regulatory examinations, securities trading rules, and more.
Peter Tomczak, chair of Baker McKenzie’s North America litigation and government enforcement practice, said the firm identified the U.S. as a geography where its international financial services clients had a need for more regulatory advice, especially as financial regulations became more complex.
Advising financial institutions is a crowded market in the U.S., with many top Wall Street firms competing in the space. Tomczak said the firm’s outposts in financial centers around the world give it a “competitive advantage” to lure talented lawyers in the U.S. whose clients need international advice.
“They are attracted to us because of the opportunities presented by working on a truly global platform that includes London and other leading financial centers,” Tomczak said in an interview.