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Big Year, Big Moves: Laterals That Turned Heads in 2019

Jan. 3, 2020, 9:51 AM

The Big Law lateral market hummed along this past year with plenty of high profile lawyers making entrances and exits at prestigious firms.

Lateral highlights included group hires as well as high profile pickups from the government as attorneys on Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation team sought work once the probe closed. There also was a riveting game of Big Law appellate practice musical chairs and a spate of bankruptcy attorneys changing firms.

Here’s a rundown of notable lawyers who were on the move. This list, which is by no means exhaustive, only includes lawyers who were hired at Big Law firms, and includes those who came from government service.

Loretta Lynch: The first black female attorney general headed to Paul Weiss. A former prosecutor in New York, she’s working for the firm’s litigation department in the Big Apple in close partnership with Paul Weiss attorneys in Washington.

Don McGahn: Jones Day announced in March former White House counsel Don McGahn would return as leader of its government regulation practice. McGahn served as Trump’s campaign counsel in 2016, and then got the White House job.

Sandra Moser: Quinn Emanuel picked up Sandra Moser, a former head of the Justice Department’s fraud section. She was named co-chair of the firm’s white collar and crisis management practice in Washington. At DOJ, Moser worked on white-collar prosecutions and oversaw enforcement of integral laws like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Michael Woronoff & Co: In one of the year’s larger lateral losses, 20 West Coast attorneys from Proskauer jumped ship for Kirkland & Ellis to help that firm form a new transactional team. Leading that group in making the jump was Michael Woronoff, who helped run Proskauer’s M&A and private equity group.

Kannon Shanmugam: The litigator moved from Williams & Connolly, where he headed the Supreme Court and appellate practice, to Paul Weiss, where he’s launched that firm’s first ever dedicated appellate practice group. Shanmugam has argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court.

Lisa Blatt: Right on the heels of Shanmugam’s departure from Williams & Connolly, Lisa Blatt stepped into his post, leaving Arnold & Porter. Blatt has prevailed in more than 30 arguments before the justices.

John Elwood: John Elwood was hired by Arnold & Porter to replace Blatt as the head of the firm’s appellate and Supreme Court practice. Elwood made the jump from Vinson & Elkins.

Paul Hughes and Michael Kimberly: The pair of litigators jumped from Mayer Brown to McDermott Will & Emery to lead its Supreme Court and appellate practice. The two have known each other since Yale Law and have worked together closely in their arguments at the high court.

Ethan Klingsberg & Co: Freshfields scored a coup by grabbing Cleary’s Ethan Klingsberg for its growing U.S. M&A practice in New York. Joining him were Meredith Kotler, Pamela Marcogliese, and Paul Tiger. Another four Cleary lawyers later announced they’d also make the jump to Freshfields.

Sidney Levinson: Debevoise & Plimpton snagged the co-head of Jones Day’s New York restructuring practice, Sidney Levinson. Levinson was one of several big bankruptcy and restructuring partners who made lateral jumps this past year, perhaps part of Big Law’s preparation for a possible recession. Jones Day lost three other restructuring partners to Gibson Dunn as McDermott built out its bankruptcy practice with laterals from Irell & Manella and Skadden.

Andrew Finch: Paul Weiss welcomed Andrew Finch back into the fold as co-chair of its antitrust group. Finch joined from the Justice Department where he was the antitrust division’s No. 2. He worked at Paul Weiss earlier in his career and said the firm was his “first call” when he knew he wanted to go back to private practice.

Robert Mueller: The former FBI chief turned special counsel returned to his old law firm, WilmerHale, in Washington following the conclusion of the investigation he headed into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller also brought James Quarles and Aaron Zebley, who joined him on the special counsel’s team, back to the firm.

Greg Andres: Another Mueller team member who made his way back to Big Law was Greg Andres, who rejoined Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York. Andres’ role in the special counsel’s work included serving as lead trial lawyer in the fraud prosecution of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager.

Jeannie Rhee: Mueller probe alum and former WilmerHale partner Jeannie Rhee was scooped up by Paul Weiss. Rhee’s team was responsible for helping with numerous pieces of the Mueller probe, including the prosecution of political adviser Roger Stone and securing plea agreements from Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen and former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.

Andrew Goldstein: Rounding out the Mueller group was Andrew Goldstein, another important player in the Russia probe, who joined Cooley in Washington and New York. He’s a former Paul Weiss attorney and former head of the public corruption unit in the Southern District of New York.

Joshua Ashley Klayman: Blockchain luminary Joshua Ashley Klayman moved to Linklaters to become the Magic Circle firm’s U.S. head of fintech and head of its blockchain and digital assets practice group. She’s former founding chair of the blockchain and smart contracts group at Morrison & Foerster.

Jean McLoughlin: Longtime Davis Polk & Wardwell partner Jean McLoughlin left for Paul Weiss to work in its employee benefits and executive compensation practice out of New York.

Sarah Stasny: Another big Paul Weiss hire was Sarah Stasny, a corporate partner the firm picked up from Kirkland. Stasny is a private equity specialist who spent more than a decade at Weil Gotschal before heading to Kirkland in 2016.

Mehdi Khodadad: Sidley Austin hired Mehdi Khodadad from Cooley as part of an ongoing play to build a top notch private equity practice. The dealmaker brought talent with him, including fellow Cooley partners Joshua DuClos and Eric Kauffman. Sidley also grabbed private equity laterals from competitors, including Davis Polk, Akin Gump, and Shearman & Sterling.

David Gindler & Co.: It’s not every day a firm can lure away another’s managing partner, but that’s exactly what Milbank pulled off with Irell & Manella’s David Gindler. Milbank hired IP litigator Gindler in Los Angeles and named him head of its IP litigation and licensing group.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rebekah Mintzer in New York at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

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