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High Court Heavyweights on the Move in 2019

Dec. 27, 2019, 9:51 AM

The Supreme Court bar was shaken up in 2019 as several luminaries found new homes.

A version of musical chairs started when veteran litigator Kannon Shanmugam jumped from Williams & Connolly, where he led the Supreme Court and appellate practice, to Paul Weiss in January to launch an appellate practice there. Shanmugam, who has argued 27 cases at the high court, joined Williams & Connolly in 2008 as its first lateral partner in decades.

Supreme Court superstar Lisa Blatt announced right after Shanmugan that she would be returning to her once-upon-a-time home Williams & Connolly, leaving Arnold & Porter behind. Blatt has prevailed in 34 of her 38 high court arguments, with two still pending at the court, according to her firm biography.

In June, the musical chairs continued as Arnold & Porter snagged high court veteran John Elwood from Vinson & Elkins to head its appellate and Supreme Court practice. The former clerk to now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy has argued nine high court cases since 2002. Allon Kedem later joined Elwood at Arnold & Porter, leaving the U.S. solicitor general’s office after five years as an assistant to the solicitor general. Kedem argued 11 times while at the SG’s office.

The solicitor general’s office also lost Supreme Court legend Michael Dreeben, who was the federal government’s top criminal lawyer at the U.S. Supreme Court. He’s one of just a handful of lawyers who have argued more than 100 cases at the high court. He made his first appearance in 1989 against now-Chief Justice John Roberts, who was also making his SCOTUS debut. Dreeben landed at O’Melveny & Myers after serving in the Justice Department for more than three decades.

Weil, Gotshal & Manges hired former assistant to the solicitor general Zachary Tripp to be co-head of the firm’s appellate practice in Washington. He’s argued 11 times at the high court, most recently in a bankruptcy case in 2019.

Finally, the Supreme Court duo of Paul Hughes and Michael Kimberly set up shop at McDermott Will & Emery to lead its Supreme Court and appellate practice after a decade at Mayer Brown. They met at Yale Law School in 2005, and work so closely that in 2018 they argued nearly back-to-back cases at the high court in which each was the “second chair” for the other.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at