Latham & Watkins launched its Boston office a little more than a year ago with just seven lateral attorneys. After Tuesday’s addition of former Goodwin Procter litigation partners Kenneth Parsigian, Gwyn Williams, and William “B.J.” Trach, the office’s lawyer head count has swelled to 27.
Parsigian—whose practice focuses on product liability matters and class actions and whom Latham is installing as the chair of its Boston litigation department—brings with him two key clients: Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA, and Altria spinoff Philip Morris International. He has served as lead counsel for the tobacco industry giants in dozens of mass tort and RICO suits going back more than a decade. Last year, sibling publication The Am Law Litigation Daily named Parsigian a Litigator of the Week for successfully defending Philip Morris USA in what began as a multibillion-dollar lawsuit brought by the City of St. Louis and dozens of hospitals against multiple tobacco companies over the cost of treating patients with smoking-related illnesses. (Parsigian is not the only Latham litigator with Philip Morris ties. Washington, D.C., litigation partner Allen Gardner recently won a pair of jury verdicts on behalf of Philip Morris USA in California state court in Los Angeles, according to his Latham bio.)
Williams, who represents Philip Morris as well, also works on mass tort and product liability matters. Trach handles white-collar crime and government investigations, as well as civil litigation.
Phil Rossetti, managing partner of Latham’s Boston office, said in a statement that the three incoming attorneys will serve as “an excellent anchor team” for the firm’s litigation practice in the city.
“We have already established robust corporate, private equity, mergers and acquisitions, and emerging companies practices here, so the addition of these talented litigators makes it clear that Latham’s Boston office will continue to grow and offer a broad and deep set of practice capabilities to our local and global clients,” Rossetti said in the statement.
A Goodwin spokesman declined to comment on the group’s departure.
Parsigian, who was with Goodwin for some 25 years, tells The Am Law Daily that he first agreed to hear out a recruiter representing Latham about a year ago and that “there was a predictable amount of back and forth” before he and his colleagues decided to switch firms.
In the end, Parsigian says that the opportunity to help build Latham’s Boston litigation practice is what drew him to make a change after so long. “You’re the first litigators in the door,” he says. “It’s almost like having a boutique experience at the same time that you have a global behemoth experience. One could look at it and say, ‘You’ve got the best of both worlds.’ And, that’s how I did look at it.”
Client pressure did not figure into the group’s decision to move, Parsigian says. As The Am Law Daily reported in December 2011—when nearly two dozen attorneys left Shook, Hardy & Bacon with client Lorillard Tobacco in tow to open a Kansas City, Missouri, office for Hughes Hubbard & Reed, while Shook held onto longtime client Philip Morris USA—regulatory changes affecting the tobacco industry have caused some tobacco makers to demand that their outside counsel not work for rival companies.
No such dynamic was at work in this instance, according to Parsigian. “Both of my big tobacco clients were extremely happy with Goodwin and with the work they got,” he says, adding that Goodwin litigation partner Paul Ware is currently handling a matter for Lorillard and regularly defends Philip Morris against lawsuits brought by individual smokers.
Parsigian says he intends to help his new firm expand its Boston litigation practice: “We wouldn’t have been interested in coming here if we didn’t think the goal was to build a real full-service office in Boston.”
According to The American Lawyer‘s most recent Am Law 100 data, Latham had gross revenue of $2.15 billion and profits per partner of $2.27 million in 2011, while Goodwin had gross revenue of $695.5 million and profits per partner of $1.5 million.