Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz corporate partner Edward Lee is joining Kirkland & Ellis’ M&A practice in New York, in a rare case of a lawyer leaving Wachtell for another firm.
Lee began his legal career as an associate at another prestigious Wall Street firm, Cravath Swaine & Moore, in 2006 before jumping to Wachtell in 2008.
In his time at Wachtell, Lee built a practice advising clients on friendly and hostile M&A, corporate governance, and complex capital markets transactions. He has also advised clients across numerous sectors including healthcare, industrial, energy, and financial institutions.
Lee advised on several hire profile deals at Wachtell, a firm known for its M&A prowess.
In 2019, he was one of the leaders on several of the largest deals in the U.S., including the $74 billion sale of Celgene Corp. to Bristol-Myers Squibb and United Technologies Corp.’s all-stock acquisition of Raytheon Co. Lee also led on Salesforce’s all-stock purchase of Tableau valued at $15.7 billion.
“We wish him well,” Wachtell said in a statement to Bloomberg Law. Lee was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday afternoon on his move to Kirkland.
“Ed is among the top young M&A lawyers in the country, with significant experience guiding clients through high-profile M&A transactions, as well as governance and activism defense matters,” chairman of Kirkland’s global management executive committee Jon Ballis said in a statement.
Lee’s addition continues Kirkland’s long-term investment in M&A, Ballis said.
“He will be a great addition to the top-tier platform we have in New York and across the firm, and we are thrilled to welcome him to the team,” said Ballis, who stepped into the chair role earlier this year.
Chicago-founded Kirkland became known under its previous chairman, Jeffrey Hammes, for making high-profile lateral hires as part of the aggressive growth strategy that has catapulted it to the top of the annual AmLaw rankings of firms by gross revenue.
The firm made waves in the past by hiring partners from Cravath, which like Wachtell, has historically not seen many partner departures. In 2018, Kirkland hired Cravath’s Sandra Goldstein, who had led the firm’s litigation department. It has also hired up-and-coming Cravath partners including Sarkis Jebejian in 2012, Jonathan Davis in 2016, and Eric Schiele in 2018.
“If anybody wondered what Kirkland’s leadership would be like under Jon Ballis, this is a perfect indicator of where the firm is heading,” said Kay Hoppe, a veteran recruiter for Big Law firms in Chicago, of the Lee hire.