On the other side, Wilmer lists 11 current partners and four counsel or special counsel who were previously at the SEC. Foremost among them is securities department chairman William McLucas, who headed the SEC's enforcement division for a record eight years. Such a critical mass means that any Wilmer lawyer interested in an SEC job already has contacts and experienced colleagues who can offer advice and recommendations.
Not everyone approves. The ties between Wilmer and the SEC provoked criticism from the nonprofit watchdog Project On Government Oversight. POGO investigator Michael Smallberg, in a 2011 article, noted that the firm has represented major Wall Street banks, and called the connection "the latest example of the [SEC's] coziness to the industry it oversees."
Novick responds that although the number of firm lawyers moving in and out of the SEC may seem high to an outsider, the scale of Wilmer's securities practice dwarfs the lateral moves. Wilmer has about 200 lawyers in its firmwide securities practice, and the SEC employs about 1,500 lawyers. "It's no more than a reflection of such a strong practice and a strong demand for our services," Novick asserts.
Given Wilmer's deep securities bench, the firm can adjust to the departure of a handful of partners, even prominent ones like Cross, who served as chairman or cochairman of the corporate practice group for more than seven years. "You lose someone, you miss them, they were part of a team," Novick says. "But on a macro level, it's more a cause for celebration for a person who got a great opportunity."
Matthew Huisman contributed reporting.
A version of this story appeared in The National Law Journal, a sibling publication of Corporate Counsel.