In its first lateral hire of the year, Cooley added Leigh to its M&A group, which handled more than 90 publicly announced deals last year. The group had been so busy trying to keep up with demand from clients that it hadn't been able to pursue new work, said Barbara Borden, chair of Cooley's M&A practice.
"She's a talented young M&A lawyer with a good deal list," Borden said. "We could use more people with her skill set to help us execute on work we already have and expand our work."
Leigh's hiring is in keeping with the firm's strategy of shifting to more high-value work, Borden said. She added that Leigh, who was part of the public company representation practice at Latham, will be helpful as the group tries to expand its public M&A practice.
Leigh, who began her career at Davis Polk & Wardwell, has built a practice that centers on complex M&A, joint ventures, private equity investments and restructurings. In perhaps her highest-profile deal, she was one of the lead attorneys advising Lucasfilm in its $4 billion acquisition by the Walt Disney Co.
But Leigh moved to Cooley to pursue a different type of work. She said she was drawn to the firm by its prowess in life sciences and technology.
"Cooley just has an incredible client base in those industries, and that's really where I enjoy practicing the most," Leigh said.
Leigh was active in the life sciences space as well last year, serving as one of the lead attorneys representing Schiff Nutrition International in its $1.2 billion acquisition by Bayer HealthCare.
Leigh said no other lawyers from Latham plan to join Cooley with her at this time. Leigh is not bringing any clients with her to Cooley, but the firm expects her to help attract new business, Borden said.
"She has practiced in the Valley for a while, and she has relationships," Borden said.