Former Jones Day partner Samidh Guha and former MacAndrews & Forbes deputy general counsel E. Danya Perry have joined forces to launch litigation boutique Perry Guha.
The founders of the boutique firm are looking to capitalize on a changing legal landscape while leveraging their experiences as ex- federal prosecutors and Big Law alumni.
Perry Guha, which will have a focus on regulatory and white-collar matters as well as internal investigations, joins a growing number of boutique law firms helmed by former Big Law attorneys. Several have sprung up in New York, where Perry and Guha’s new firm is based.
The founders first met at the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York over a decade ago, following stints at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, respectively.
In 2002, the pair teamed up to try a uniquely complex narcotics case that involved rebuilding a decades old investigation in a relatively short time frame.
That experience added a dimension to their friendship that showed the two could work together professionally, said Guha.
Guha left the U.S. attorney’s office in 2008 to rejoin Akin Gump before jumping to Jones Day in 2014, where he was a partner in its securities litigation and SEC enforcement practice.
It would be awhile before his path would cross again with Perry’s.
She remained in the Southern District where she was appointed as senior trial counsel and deputy chief of the criminal division. There she handled the successful prosecution of a $1 billion disability-fraud case involving Long Island Rail Road workers and one of the nation’s largest immigration fraud cases.
In 2013 she was appointed New York State Deputy Attorney General and Chief of Investigations for the Moreland Commission to investigate public corruption in the state of New York. Her investigation resulted in the implementation of numerous anti-corruption measures and the prosecution and conviction of two leaders of the New York State legislature, former Sen. Dean Skelos and former Rep. Sheldon Silver.
Perry stepped down from her post in early 2014 and in March of that year she became chief of litigation and deputy general counsel of MacAndrews & Forbes, a holding company owned by billionaire investor Ronald Perelman.
Perry always intended to go back to her roots as a trial lawyer and began discussions with several Big Law firms about returning to private practice, but “for one reason or another they just didn’t strike the right balance,” she said.
Over at Jones Day, Guha had also reached a point in his professional and personal life where he was keen on jumping to a new endeavor.
The two began talking theoretically about opening a boutique a year ago. But those talks began in earnest over the summer, the pair said, with both stepping away from their respective positions several weeks ago to launch Perry Guha.
There is risk involved and starting a boutique can be very daunting, Guha said. But with support from each other, friends, colleagues and even those in the litigation boutique space, they’re ready to start their new adventure.
“We’re confident in our model and we’re really energized and excited,” Perry said.
A Unique Offering
Though the new firm has only officially been in operation for 16 days, it has already hired a few associates and an office manager. Perry said the firm will stay at that size until the founders get a better sense of their staffing needs, likely early next year.
Aside from bringing their experience as prosecutors to fuel the new firm’s focus on regulatory and white-collar work, the founders said the firm will also take on civil litigation, particularly commercial litigation matters for large and mid-sized companies.
“Our value, I think, is that a client will be able to get better attention, the same level of excellence and more efficient pricing than they would if they went to a Big Law firm with the same matter,” Perry said.
In her five years as head of litigation at MacAndrews & Forbes, her team moved away from the one-size fits all model where if a matter comes through the door, it’s simply shipped out to white-shoe firm “A” or Big Law firm “B.”
She said clients instead have moved towards smaller boutique firms that offer not only better cost efficiencies but better responsiveness, interactive thinking about an issue and “just a better and closer relationship with the lawyer who’s actually handling the matter.”
“Our thinking is there will be some appeal to companies or to individuals who are thinking about hiring us in knowing that if they hire me and Samidh, they’ll get me and Samidh,” she said. “We’re not going to punt the matter to another partner or a midlevel associate.”
Perry Guha is just the latest litigation boutique founded by former Big Law attorneys in recent years. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan partners Faith Gay and Philippe Selendy formed their own litigation boutique Selendy & Gay in February 2018. Paul Weiss partners Beth Wilkinson and Roberta Kaplan each left the Wall Street firm to launch their own boutique practices in Washington.
“I think what you’re seeing is that there’s a whole segment of the market that boutiques may be positioned to take advantage of,” Guha said.
But it isn’t merely Perry’s in-house expertise that will differentiate the firm from the other high-quality litigation boutiques that have entered the legal market.
The founders consider the firm’s status as a woman and minority-owned law firm to be a cornerstone.
“We have the diversity at the top of the firm, and it will drive the way we build our firm,” Guha said. “From our perspective, it would be second nature even if we weren’t conscious about it.”