Brian Kavanaugh joins Sidley Austin from Kirkland & Ellis

The litigator’s move is the latest in a series of defections from the Chicago-based behemoth.

Posted Wednesday, March 4th 2020
Brian Kavanaugh joins Sidley Austin from Kirkland & Ellis

The former co-leader of Kirkland & Ellis’s data privacy practice has left to join Chicago rival Sidley Austin’s litigation group, constituting another in a series of partner losses for Kirkland’s disputes teams in 2020.

 

Kavanaugh is especially strong in the healthcare industry, counting Health Care Service and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association as clients in data-breach litigation; he has represented the former in 20 federal court cases since 2007. Kavanaugh also has experience in arbitration.

 

“A trial lawyer of Brian’s caliber making a move to Sidley is another example of our status as a litigation powerhouse,” said Yvette Ostolaza, co-leader of Sidley’s global litigation group, in a statement. “Brian’s energy and experience fit seamlessly with that of our talented team, and will undoubtedly strengthen our healthcare, insurance and privacy litigation work.”

 

Last week, Kirkland & Ellis saw the departure of its entire international arbitration team to King & Spalding. Since New Year’s Day, Kirkland has seen Elizabeth Cutri go in-house at sports analytics company Stats Perform, Kelli Mulder leave to join Honigman (which often recruits from Kirkland’s non-equity partner base), Scott McMillin depart for Benesch, and Andrew Pruitt up sticks for Crowell & Moring. Outside of commercial litigation, Kirkland & Ellis lost private equity partners Abtin Jalali and Chris Harding to Gibson Dunn & Crutcher earlier this week.

 

The ongoing departures may be related to the fact that, while making salary-partner at Kirkland is not as hard as at other Big Law firms, making equity-partner is reserved for a far more select few. This can rankle with ambitious salary-partners: as Bloomberg reported in January, over a third of the firm’s 2016 class of income-partners have since left the firm.

 

Despite these departures, and perhaps with an eye on a looming recession, Kirkland’s labor practice has been busy hiring partners this year, having brought on board Rob Fowler from Baker Botts and Stephen Jacobson from Vinson & Elkins – both in Houston, and both experts in executive compensation.