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Three Partners Depart as Irell & Manella Announces New Strategy

Feb. 4, 2020, 7:37 PM

A trio of partners from Los Angeles-based Irell & Manella have decamped to new law firms as the high-end litigation firm pivots its strategy toward certain litigation practices and away from “non-core practice areas.”

Irell M&A partners Gregory Klein and Michael Kaplan have joined Simpson Thacher & Bartlett’s mergers and acquisitions practice. Harry Mittleman, a partner and the firm’s co-general counsel, will take an of counsel role at Hueston Hennigan in Los Angeles.

Klein was the co-chair of Irell’s transactions practice and served as a member of its executive committee.

Both he and Kaplan focus on private equity transactions, M&A, securities offerings, and other corporate matters. Their clients have included private equity firms in domestic and cross-border transactions with an emphasis on middle market deals. Klein’s clients over the years have included Beach Point Capital Management, Angeles Equity Partners, and Genstar Capital.

An email to colleagues from Irell partner and executive committee member Jonathan Kagan, obtained by Bloomberg Law, outlined a bigger shift in the firm’s approach to focus on litigation, particularly IP and complex business matters.

“For more than a year Irell’s executive committee has been exploring a range of alternative business models and we concluded this focused strategy is the option,” Kagan’s email said.

While Irell will continue to have lawyers in other practice areas, particularly in transactional areas, it does not anticipate making significant investments in non-core practice areas in the near future, the email said.

It said certain partners, specifically Klein and Kaplan, are building practices that require expertise in non-core practices and developing this would be “inconsistent with our strategy.” The email said Irell expects other departures in the future.

“Although these departures are a natural and expected consequence of our focused growth strategy, these lawyers will always be a part of the Irell family,” Kagan said in the email.

Klein said in a statement that “it’s not easy to leave” the firm.

“However, Simpson Thacher’s superb reputation in private equity and mergers and acquisitions, combined with its multidisciplinary platform, was really attractive and makes it the best next step for our practice,” he said.

Klein, Kaplan and Mittleman are just the latest in a string of departures from Irell in recent months.

Milbank picked up four intellectual property partners from Irell in August, including its managing partner David Gindler. Ellisen Turner, who both preceded and succeeded Gindler as managing partner, left the firm for Kirkland & Ellis in October. Sheppard Mullin brought on David Schwartz, the former co-chair of Irell’s appellate practice, in its Century City, Calif. office in early January.

In spite of these departures, Kagan noted in his email the firm has had several prominent litigation wins and remains in “fantastic financial health.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Meghan Tribe in New York at

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