It started with lunch.

Last fall Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher litigation cochair Randy Mastro met with federal prosecutor Reed Brodsky at Café Centro, a French bistro that’s located downstairs from the firm’s Manhattan office and attracts the local business crowd.

Mastro had set up the meeting at the request of a friend employed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. The friend had told Mastro that Brodsky—one of the government lawyers responsible for securing the convictions of Galleon Group hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam and former Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta on insider trading charges—was considering a career change.

“I thought you might be able to give him some good advice,” Mastro, himself a former Southern District prosecutor, recalls his friend saying. And the meeting did indeed start with the sage trial lawyer offering the wisdom of his years to a rising star. But then it took a turn. By the end, Mastro knew he wanted Brodsky, 43, to join Gibson Dunn.

With Mastro traveling for business steadily between October and early December, the recruiting effort waned. By the time he called Brodsky again, Mastro says he learned that several other firms—none of which he or others familiar with Brodsky’s move would identify—were wooing him as well. “I begged and pleaded and said, ‘Give us a chance, meet more people here,’ ” Mastro says. “ That’s what he did.”

On Wednesday, The New York Times broke the news that Brodsky, who last worked in The Am Law 200 as an associate at what was then Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, would be joining Gibson in the coming weeks (The Wall Street Journal and Reuters followed with their own reports).

Gibson Dunn still hasn’t officially announced the hire, and Mastro says he’s not sure when exactly Brodsky is starting with the firm. Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office, declined to comment. Brodsky also had no comment Thursday.

Brodsky joined the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan in 2004 after a seven-year stint in private practice spent working on securities enforcement and white-collar defense cases in Washington, D.C., first with Crowell & Moring and later with Wilmer. Fluent in Spanish, he started his legal career as a clerk for U.S. District Judge Hector Laffitte in Puerto Rico after graduating from Vanderbilt Law School in 1995.

Brodsky’s return to private practice is likely to bring a considerable bump in pay. Though his precise salary at the U.S. attorney’s office isn’t known, a current job posting for a prosecutor position in the Brooklyn office advertises base pay between $57,385 and $155,400, depending on experience. Gibson Dunn’s average profits per equity partner, meanwhile, were $2.47 million in 2011 (That year, the firm had gross revenue of roughly $1.17 billion, according to The American Lawyer. Financial data for 2012 is not yet available.)

Andrew Michaelson—a former Southern District assistant U.S. attorney who joined Boies, Schiller & Flexner as a partner in March and worked alongside Brodsky on the Rajaratnam case—calls his former colleague a hardworking trial lawyer whose courtroom skills are based in large part on his meticulous approach to mastering the evidence of a case. “He understands courtroom dynamics,” Michaelson adds. “And there’s an overarching strategy to what he does. He’s got the big picture in mind.” (The third member of the Southern District team that prosecuted Rajaratnam, Jonathan Streeter, joined Dechert last January. The federal district court judge who presided over the case, Richard Holwell, launched his own law firm last February.)

As a former federal prosecutor, Brodsky will fit right in at Gibson Dunn, which has claimed top honors in the general litigation category in The American Lawyer‘s last two Litigation Department of the Year contests. In the New York office alone, Mastro says, there are a dozen partners with experience as assistant U.S. attorneys or Securities and Exchange Commission lawyers, including Orin Snyder, another former Southern District of New York lawyer, and Mark Kirsch, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York. Last May, Avi Weitzman, who defended the government’s use of wiretaps in the Rajaratnam case, joined Gibson as of counsel. (Gibson’s other high-profile litigators include former solicitor general and assistant attorney general Theodore Olson and appellate lawyer Theodore Boutrous.)

Mastro says the firm has a busy trial schedule in the coming months and that he expects Brodsky to contribute immediately on a range of cases—and not not just those involving white-collar crime. Upcoming cases, all in the Southern District of New York, include defending Moody’s in a case brought by investors related to ratings given to a structured investment vehicle during the economic downturn; defending Apple in an antitrust case brought by the U.S. government over its alleged price-fixing of e-books; and representing Chevron in its long-running litigation over a $19 billion judgment awarded against the oil giant in Ecuador.

“We like to try cases,” says Mastro. “His trial skills make him a perfect fit.”