The Churn

March 3, 2009 12:18 PM

THE CHURN: Lateral Moves and Promotions in The Am Law 200

Posted by Rachel Breitman

With a wave of several high-level corporate partner hires this week, law firms seem to be saying that the rumors of corporate work's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Although corporate deals and IPOs took a hit in the last year, this week's hires suggest that some firms still see the need for more corporate lawyers to handle distressed debt and lending transactions, M&A, and bankruptcy-related deals.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld welcomed back two corporate attorneys to the fold with open arms. Ronald Goldberg rejoined the firm as a partner and Edward Christian rejoined as a senior counsel after four-year stints at McDermott, Will & Emery. Goldberg advises hedge, private equity, debt, and investment funds and airlines, foreign banks, and individual borrowers in transportation finance, derivatives, equipment leasing, project finance, short-term debt borrowing, and secured and unsecured lending agreements. Christian counsels investment funds, investment banks, and bondholders in loan, joint venture, M&A, and insolvency deals.

Baker Botts's newest West Coast hire, Scott Wornowwill help redefine the firm's IP-heavy Palo Alto office. Wornow, who represented clients in the technology, capital markets in securities and M&A matters while at Goodwin Procter and Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, will lead the new office's corporate group. Baker Botts, which opened in Palo Alto in May, had previously focused on IP prosecution and litigation in that office. Wornow also has experience working in-house, as executive vice president for legal and business affairs for interactive TV company OpenTV Corp., and as general counsel and chief restructuring officer at OmniSky Corp.

Fulbright & Jaworski brought in a New York-based pair of corporate partners, Michael Flynn and Thomas L'Helias, both formerly at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal. They have advised large financial institutions, private equity funds, venture capital funds, and growth stage companies on debt and equity financings, mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, recapitalizations, joint ventures, roll-ups, privatization transactions and licensing arrangements.

After announcing last week that it was shuttering its Charlotte officeSonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal,  now is expanding its corporate group. The firm's newest New York-based partner is Peter Morgan, the former chair of the hedge fund group at recently defunct Thacher Proffitt & Wood. He joins more than 100 other former Thacher attorneys who also moved to Sonnenschein in January. Morgan will handle finance and private equity matters, advising insurers, underwriters, placement agents, investors, banks, issuers, and borrowers in transactions involving assets such as leases, loans, receivables, and equipment.

While White & Case ended its alliance with a Singapore firm last week, K&L Gates moved forward on its plans to open a Singapore office, the firm's fifth in Asia.  The move follows in the footsteps of O'Melveny & Myers and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. The office will handle cross-border corporate, mergers & acquisitions, restructuring transactions, and international arbitration along with investment management services, fund formation and technology, life sciences and digital media matters. New partner Kevin Murphy will lead the firm's Singapore corporate and restructuring team. Murphy, who moved over from the Singapore office of DLA Piper, has worked in the area for 15 years, representing Asian and foreign clients on investments and acquisitions, debt restructurings, and public and private financings.

Meanwhile, Barnes & Thornburg added a partner to what may be the most recession-proof practice area: labor and employment. Keith White joined the firm's Fort Wayne office from Baker & Daniels, where he represented employers in union avoidance, collective bargaining, strikes, contract administration, and arbitration. Barnes aims to capitalize on White's presence to help businesses handle the effects of the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, currently pending in the U.S. Congress. White is also advising clients on workforce reduction and plant closings.

Jones Day's Cleveland office hired new white-collar criminal defense specialist James Wooley from Baker Hostetler for its corporate criminal investigations and trial practices. Wooley has handled criminal and civil fraud litigation involving the health care, government contractor and securities industries, along with copyright infringement, environmental crimes, election law violations, and public corruption trials.

Katten Muchin Rosenman recruited Deborah Fletcher for its Charlotte bankruptcy and creditors rights practice. Fletcher, who previously worked at Kilpatrick Stockton, represents secured and unsecured creditors, trustees, and asset purchasers in bankruptcy. Fletcher's book on bankruptcy, Bankruptcy: A Survival Guide for Lenders, is in its second edition. 

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips found an entertainment industry attorney with a keen business sense in Lindsay Conner, the newest partner in the firm's business, finance and tax division's entertainment & media practice. Most recently the head of Dickstein Shapiro's entertainment law practice, Conner has been chief outside counsel to film studios, television networks, production companies and financial institutions, handling M&A, finance, production, and distribution transactions.  

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius's Washington litigation practice has a breath of fresh air from Justice Department environmental litigator Ron Tenpas. As Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, Tenpas advised on air and water quality laws and cap-and-trade carbon reduction systems. In his 12 years at Justice, he also worked as an assistant U.S. attorney, associate deputy attorney general, and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois. At Morgan Lewis, he'll handle environmental litigation, including climate change and emissions reductions suits.

Sidley Austin's appellate practice had a happy homecoming, one calculated to boost the practice after Stephen Kinnaird's departure last fall to lead Paul, Hastings's appellate group. Jonathan Cohn, former deputy assistant attorney general in charge of the Civil Division's appellate staff, has just returned to the firm. Cohn has supervised cases involving administrative law, national security, and federal statute constitutional challenges. Cohn also worked with various federal agencies on litigation, including the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, and the Department of State.

Update (1:30 p.m.): McKenna Long & Aldridge chose to hire a doctor, and not a lawyer, to provide an Rx for its healthcare and alternative energy clients. The firm has tapped former Democratic presidential contender, Vermont governor, and Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean as a senior strategic advisor and independent consultant for its national government affairs practice. In the last two months, the firm also added former Democratic Pennsylvania congressman Paul McHale and Republican Georgia state legislator Matt Towery to its governmental affairs team.

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