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McDermott Will & Emery Nabs SCOTUS Duo Hughes and Kimberly (1)

June 3, 2019, 4:47 PMUpdated: June 3, 2019, 8:48 PM

The formidable duo of Paul W. Hughes and Michael B. Kimberly have landed at McDermott Will & Emery to lead its Supreme Court and appellate practice after a decade at Mayer Brown.

On a parallel legal trajectory since their days at Yale Law School, the pair work so closely that in two nearly back-to-back arguments before the Supreme Court in March, each lawyer was “second chair” for the other.

They’ve argued 10 cases between them before the justices, including one decided already this term and others awaiting outcomes this month.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to bring our experience to bear in growing and enhancing this area of focus for McDermott,” Hughes said of the move. “Michael and I love what we do, and we’re excited to put that passion to work for the firm and its clients.”

Both earned their law degrees the same year at Yale where they were editors of “The Yale Law Journal,” and they are co-directors of the Yale Supreme Court Clinic.

Hughes and Kimberly clerked for circuit judges before joining Mayer Brown in 2009 where they later became partners.

First Chair, Second Chair

They’ve worked together on nearly all of their cases, a Mayer Brown spokesperson said in March, as the two prepared to argue two of the Supreme Court’s most consequential cases this term.

On March 26, Kimberly took the lectern to argue against partisan gerrymandering in Lamone v. Benisek. Hughes sat as his second chair.

The next day, Hughes argued a case seeking to dismantle part of the so-called administrative state in Kisor v. Wilkie. Next to him as his second chair was Kimberly.

”It is very intense to write the briefs and prepare for the arguments. It can easily take 100 hours to prepare for an argument,” Hughes added.

As second chair, that time investment doubles, he noted.

“We take a very equal approach,” added Kimberly.

Kimberly recently won a unanimous ruling in Smith v. Berryhill, in which the justices expanded the role of courts in Social Security benefits.

And they’re waiting for decisions in three cases, including Kisor, Lamone, and Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, a First Amendment question involving a cable TV operator.

The pair also is scheduled to argue at least one case next term, Kansas v. Garcia, which involves state prosecution of immigration offenses.

Hughes has handled more than 250 appellate matters, including 21 cases on the merits at the high court. Hughes focuses on administrative, immigration, bankruptcy, securities, and intellectual property.

Kimberly has handled more than 200 appellate matters, including 22 cases on the merits at the high court. He focuses on constitutional, antitrust, and administrative law.

Their hiring from Mayer Brown bolsters McDermott’s appellate practice, where M. Miller Baker has handled Supreme Court cases as practice co-chair. Baker’s nomination to the U.S. Court of International Trade is pending before the Senate.

With assistance from Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson.

(Updates throughout with details on attorneys, and cases.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Olson at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at; Rebekah Mintzer at