US legal news round-up: 26-30 November 2018

There's been no shortage of movement in the US legal market this week, so we thought we'd give you a round-up. Here are the major leaps and jumps by city...

There's been no shortage of movement in the US legal market this week, so we thought we'd give you a round-up. Here are the major leaps and jumps by city...

New York



Paul Hastings has welcomed private funds expert Ira Kustin, who spent well over a decade at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Especially experienced in complex credit fund work and hybrid products, Kustin assists hedge fund and private equity fund managers with structuring, launching and operating private funds.


He will be well positioned to satisfy the growing demand among hedge fund managers for forming private equity-style investment vehicles. New classes within existing funds are increasingly common, as is the formation of co-investment and “sidecar” vehicles. In a statement, Kustin said: ‘Hedge fund managers that used to have just long/short plain vanilla equity investment strategies are venturing into uncharted territory and looking at longer-term investments and investments in private companies.’


He added, ‘If I’m the client, I want to be able to call one person, the expert within the firm, who understands how these complex funds work, and knows about regulations in the UK, EU or Asian jurisdictions. A healthy percentage of my client base is actively investing in Europe, and Paul Hastings also has a very robust Asian platform, which was certainly attractive.’


Meanwhile, at the smaller end of the law firm spectrum, antitrust and IP boutique Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider saw former Simpson Thacher & Bartlett counsel Peter Herrick join its New York office. This is perhaps a trend: Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom counsel Tiffany Rider arrived at the boutique’s Washington office in July.


Says John Harkrider, one of Axinn’s name partners: ‘the economics of the law firms are making it difficult to promote people to partner, notwithstanding they’re great partners… We don’t care so much what year you are, we’re not interested in the hierarchy. We’re interested in people coming up with great ideas.’


Harkrider added that he was particularly gratified to have found someone like Herrick, who has both transactional and litigation experience and experience working in government; Herrick was senior trial counsel in the Federal Trade Commission’s competition bureau.


Harkrider is surprisingly bullish about the antitrust market. ‘The Trump administration is very tough on antitrust and I think that’s a little unexpected,’ he said, during the same week it transpired that the Department of Justice filed fewer than 20 antitrust enforcement cases this year – the lowest since 1972. By comparison, the Department filed 72 cases in the first year of the Obama administration. The analogous figure for George W. Bush was 44. It will be interesting to see how Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider deals with the general lull in antitrust activity under Trump; since the firm is also strong in IP, it may see a relative rise of activity in this field.



Washington, D.C.


After only a year at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Nicole Saharsky has joined Mayer Brown to head its Supreme Court and appellate practice together with Andrew Pincus.


This is the second major departure for Gibson, Dunn’s appellate and constitutional law practice in the last year: in December, James Ho left following his confirmation to join the US Court of Appeals’s Fifth Circuit.


Mayer Brown has been trying to bolster its practice after the murder in his home of the department’s 72-year-old founder, Stephen Shapiro, in August. Before joining Gibson, Dunn, Saharsky was assistant to the US Solicitor-General, and found Mayer Brown’s department appealing because of its similarities with the Solicitor-General’s office. Given her experience there, she will be a useful asset for the team.



Northern Virginia


Corporate partner Christine Walchuk has joined DLA Piper from Goodwin Procter. Especially strong in the pharmaceutical, life sciences and technology sectors, Walchuk has experience in licensing, research and development (R&D), and distribution and manufacturing arrangements as well as in M&A and equity capital markets.


‘I’ve been able to focus a great deal on the licensing and partnering side, to help companies with their transactional needs across the product life cycle,’ says Walchuk. ‘Everything from early-stage R&D to manufacturing to getting a product on the market and maintaining it.’


Walchuk is noted for her expertise in deal-pricing, which is a valuable asset in a sector while valuations of IP can fluctuate unpredictably: often in deals, the target’s IP and pharmaceutical assets are still under development and may not hit the market until years after the transaction.


‘You’ll still see equities exchanged, as in a traditional M&A transaction, but the parties may agree to milestones or royalty payments that come at the back end, after certain commercial achievements have been realised,’ explained Walchuk. ‘This shares the risk a little bit, helps the buyers feel that they are getting to see that the technology in question proves itself, and helps each side get a little bit of comfort.’

Read the full Special Report: USA: Global Powerhouse

In a world where the only thing that doesn't change is change itself, opportunities and risks are too obvious to ignore, and the legal market is no exception. Worth over $400 billion and one of the most profitable in the world, the U.S. legal industry is under fundamental transformation. Whether you're an in-house counsel or a law firm, only those with far-ranging sights, clear thoughts and quick action can survive and thrive.
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