The Firms

October 13, 2011 6:12 PM

Clifford Chance Lands Trio of Former Prosecutors in New York

Posted by Drew Combs

Reuniting three lawyers who once worked together as assistant U.S. attorneys in the Southern District of New York, Clifford Chance announced Thursday that it has hired David Raskin, Christopher Morvillo, and Edward O'Callaghan as New York-based partners in the firm's white- collar, regulatory enforcement, and government investigations practice group.

David DiBari, the leader of Clifford Chance's U.S. litigation and dispute resolution practice, says the additions of Raskin, Morvillo, and O'Callaghan--all of whom will officially assume their new posts later this month--fit with the firm's broader plans.

"They fit into what we are doing domestically and internationally," says DiBari. "This is part of our strategy for litigation in the Americas, to build out our white-collar and regulatory expertise in New York and Washington, D.C."

Raskin joins Clifford Chance from the U. S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, where he currently serves as chief of the terrorism and national security unit. As the Clifford Chance press release announcing his hiring notes, Raskin has played a central role in such high-profile cases as the successful prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui—the so-called twentieth hijacker in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks—and the investigation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, an alleged mastermind of those attacks.

Morvillo joins Clifford Chance from Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason, Anello & Bohrer, where he is a partner (and where his father, Robert Morvillo, is a name partner). Since leaving the U.S. attorney's office in 2005, Morvillo has represented individual and corporate clients in internal investigations, civil proceedings, and white-collar matters, according to the Clifford Chance press release.

O'Callaghan arrives from Nixon Peabody, where he has practiced for some two years and leads the firm's government investigations and white-collar defense group. His practice has included representing financial institutions in connection with regulatory enforcement matters. After leaving the U.S. attorney's office in 2008, O'Callaghan served as a senior adviser to U.S. senator John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. O'Callaghan also acted as the campaign's spokesman regarding Alaska state investigations involving vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

The Clifford Chance hires are the latest in a spate of lateral moves involving lawyers--many of them former prosecutors--experienced in the areas of government investigations, regulatory matters, and white-collar prosecutions.

Since September, Dechert; Duane Morris; Greenberg Traurig; Katten Muchin Rosenman; Nixon Peabody; Perkins Coie; Venable; Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; and Winston & Strawn have all hired attorneys with backgrounds in white-collar, regulatory compliance, and internal investigations.

Another firm joining the trend: Washington, D.C.-based Zuckerman Spaeder, which, as The Am Law Daily reported, began to expand its New York presence last month by hiring Steven Cohen, a former top adviser to New York governor Andrew Cuomo and a onetime federal prosecutor.

At the time, Zuckerman chairman Graeme Bush said hiring Cohen was a first step toward adding more lawyers with experience in government investigations and white-collar matters to the firm's New York office. Cohen's arrival was followed in short order by the additions of Paul Schechtman, who over the course of a lengthy career has done two stints as a Southern District of New York prosecutor, and Andrew Tomback, a Milbank, Tweed Hadley & McCloy partner who also has SDNY experience on his resume.

In explaining the broader marketplace trend and his own firm's efforts to strengthen its capabilities in the areas of government investigations, compliance, and white-collar crime, Clifford Chance's DiBari says, "It's clear that in the legal market right now there is a demand for high-quality, white-collar experience by firms who are responding to a dramatic increase in the need for these attorneys."

DiBari cited financial fraud investigations and increased cooperation among enforcement agencies in different countries as factors helping to drive that demand. "U.S. authorities are getting much more cooperation from their peers around the world," he says.

Reaching into the prosecutorial ranks isn't completely risk-free for firms, according to legal industry recruiters.

"A lot of these folks, specifically those coming directly from the government, have good reputations but no clients," says California-based legal recruiter Sandy Lechtick. "While some firms may have clients with an immediate need for these services, other firms are hoping that if they build the practice, the clients will come."

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