Paul Monnin
Paul Monnin was part of the DLA Piper team defending Heery International in DeKalb County Schools litigation. (John Disney/Daily Report)

Paul Hastings has recruited Paul Monnin as a partner from DLA Piper as part of an initiative to add white-collar defense lawyers.

Monnin had been at DLA Piper since 2008, when he left the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District. Monnin was an assistant U.S. attorney and deputy chief of the economic crime section.

Monnin, 45, said Paul Hastings, like DLA Piper, is international and has a strong white-collar emphasis, but with a smaller partnership. “I wouldn’t have left DLA except for all those things,” he said. “I really enjoyed my time at DLA. It’s a fantastic firm with amazing resources and a global scope, with a connection to practitioners across the world. It was a great learning experience.”

DLA Piper, the largest law firm in the United States, reported 2013 revenue of $2.48 billion. It has more than 4,100 lawyers internationally. Paul Hastings, which has about 900 lawyers, is the 27th largest firm by revenue, reporting a 2013 gross of $941 million.

Monnin, who also handles complex civil litigation, said lawyers in other practices, such as corporate and tax, refer him white-collar cases, so he wanted more personal contact with partners who have first-hand knowledge of his skills when a criminal or regulatory enforcement action comes along.

“It may be odd to say, but I’m in a smaller partnership,” said Monnin, adding that he’s the only white-collar defense partner in Paul Hastings’ Atlanta office. “It’s still a very large firm but with more of the attributes of a traditional partnership,” he said, such as a single-tier partnership.

Paul Hastings has about 200 equity partners with average profit per equity partner of $2,175,000 last year, compared with 454 equity partners at DLA Piper and PPEP of $1,325,000, according to the most recent Am Law 100 survey by The American Lawyer, a sibling publication.

DLA Piper took on what would become the biggest case of Monnin’s career soon after he joined the firm in 2008—a civil dispute for architecture and engineering firm Heery International, which with joint venture partner E.R. Mitchell & Co. was embroiled in litigation with the DeKalb County Board of Education.

The Daily Report named DLA Piper its 2014 White Collar Litigation Department of the Year, in part for that case, which Monnin worked on with partners Mark Grantham and Arthur Brannan. The DeKalb school board sought $150 million in damages from Heery, which had handled its construction and renovation projects, alleging mismanagement and overbilling. Heery claimed that it was wrongfully terminated as the school district’s outside construction agent so the district could steer contracts to favored vendors. Heery settled the case last fall with a $7.5 million donation to the school district.

Separately, state and federal prosecutors brought criminal corruption charges against DeKalb school district superintendent Crawford Lewis and chief operating officer Pat Reid (formerly Pope), along with her ex-husband, architect Tony Pope.

“It had issues across the board—including construction litigation and false claims allegations against our client,” Monnin said. “We had very capable adversaries, so I had to be on my feet.” King & Spalding represented the DeKalb school district, and Greenberg Traurig was among a number of other firms representing individual parties.

Grantham, who started DLA Piper’s Atlanta office in 2006, recruited Monnin from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He said he was sorry to see Monnin go. “He was a good catch for us, and he’s a good catch for Paul Hastings.”

“I’m really going to miss Mark. He is a fantastic practitioner,” Monnin said.

Monnin said Paul Hastings partner Walter Jospin recruited him to his new firm.

Jospin, an M&A lawyer who also handles SEC enforcement defense cases, said he met Monnin when the latter was an assistant U.S. attorney investigating one of Jospin’s clients. “I’ve been recruiting him since he left the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Paul is a very fine attorney—and a nice person,” Jospin said. “We are honored to have him join us.”

The two firms’ Atlanta offices are about the same size. Paul Hastings has 40 lawyers locally and DLA Piper has 37, according to their websites.

Paul Hastings recently added three white-collar lawyers from Bingham McCutchen to its Washington office, another from Kaye Scholer in Chicago and a federal prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

“As aggressive prosecution of white-collar matters continue to grow among U.S. enforcement authorities, Paul Hastings is focusing on building our white-collar compliance, investigations and enforcement practice,” said the head of Paul Hastings’ litigation practice, Barry Sher, in a statement.