Longtime Silicon Valley lawyer Judith O'Brien will join King & Spalding as a partner this week, ramping up the firm's presence in the region.
O'Brien will lead the firm's Silicon Valley corporate practice, now a top priority for the office, said Timothy Scott, King & Spalding's managing partner in Silicon Valley. O'Brien spent more than two decades at the Palo Alto office of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati before leaving in 2001 to co-found a venture capital fund and serve as an executive at Obopay, a mobile payments company. Scott thinks O'Brien will help the firm gain traction in the region.
"That's really the essence of the decision to hire Judy, to catapult us to a bigger role in the Valley," he said. "She's the first piece of that plan. Now we're going to build around her."
King & Spalding opened its Redwood Shores, Calif., office in 2008 with eight attorneys poached from Perkins Coie. But the firm has struggled to retain talent in the Valley at times and lost some of its initial team in 2011, including IP partner Paul Andre.
Corporate and securities partner Laura Bushnell was the practice's first hire in 2009, and IP transaction partner Emma Maconick joined her in late September. In the coming year, the firm plans to hire about 10 more corporate lawyers, Scott said. One or two lawyers may also be shifted from other King & Spalding offices, he noted.
O'Brien said King & Spalding's drive to build a new practice inspired her to return to the law firm fold. Since 2011, she has advised early-stage companies through her consulting firm, Laurel Advisers.
"I'm very effective at partnering with executives to help them achieve their strategic goals," she said. "I realized I could better achieve that working at a law firm with a global platform."
The office will also expand its IP litigation practice in the coming years, Scott said. The firm recruited veteran patent litigator William Abrams in July. Abrams had been a partner in Bingham McCutchen's East Palo Alto office since 2006 and was a former co-chair of the firm's IP practice.
But the corporate practice is the focus at present, Scott said.
"It's the corporate practice that really drives the Valley," he added. "And that's spoken as a litigator."