California-Based Quinn Emanuel Sharpens N.Y. EdgeAmanda Bronstad
The National Law Journal
April 21, 2006
The lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges occasionally wear T-shirts and jeans to work, but they have a decidedly New York style.
The Los Angeles-based law firm is gearing up to move its New York office a fourth time since opening its doors nearly five years ago. That office -- the only one of the firm's five offices located outside of California -- has grown to more than 50 lawyers, about 20 percent of the firm's total lawyer head count.
In the past year, the firm's New York lawyers have been retained in high-profile business fraud cases that have helped generate an average of $1.9 million in profits per partner, the highest among Los Angeles-based law firms last year, according to the firm. With an emphasis on intellectual property and business fraud cases, the firm hopes to build on its West Coast success in taking high-stakes New York disputes to trial, said William Urquhart, name partner of Quinn Emanuel.
'FIRM OF LAST RESORT'
Four lawyers, including managing partner John Quinn in Los Angeles, founded Quinn Emanuel in 1986. Early on, the firm specialized in trademark, copyright and employment litigation.
"As we grew and we gained a name for ourselves, we were charging higher rates," said Phyllis Kupferstein, a co-founder of Quinn Emanuel who left to become the West Coast head of labor and employment for McDermott, Will & Emery. "Quinn is marketing itself as very much the firm of last resort or when you have a bet-the-company case."
The approach has worked, helping to boost the firm's revenues, which last year reached $193 million, up about 20 percent from the previous year.
Urquhart, who joined the firm in 1988, said about 65 percent of the firm's work comes from patent litigation -- and some of the biggest revenue generators have been those taken on a contingency basis.
Last year, Quinn Emanuel obtained a $128 million jury verdict on behalf of prepaid cellular phone company Freedom Wireless Inc. in a patent dispute with its larger competitors, including Boston Communications Group Inc. and Cingular Wireless LLC. The verdict, which is on appeal, could generate $70 million in income for the firm, based on a 30 percent contingency fee and interest on the verdict. Freedom Wireless Inc. v. Boston Communications Group, No. 00CV12234.
On other fronts, Quinn Emanuel recently hired former Stanford Law School Dean Kathleen Sullivan to build an appellate practice out of its Silicon Valley office in Redwood Shores, Calif.
Hiring top-level appellate lawyers has been more common among East Coast firms, Urquhart said. But Quinn wanted "to have an appeals group to supplement our litigation group, to protect our victories and salvage out of defeat," he said.
Now, the firm is looking to the east.
One of the most successful recruits in the New York office -- run by New York managing partner Peter Calamari -- has been partner Michael Carlinsky. He left Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe to join Quinn Emanuel's fledgling New York office in 2002. He said he was attracted to the firm's litigation practice, which eliminated a lot of the conflicts he would have faced at a bigger firm.
One of Carlinsky's biggest clients is Milan, Italy-based Parmalat Finanziaria SpA, which brought suits against Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and auditors Grant Thornton and Deloitte & Touche, alleging that they were responsible for an $18 billion accounting fraud that sent the company into bankruptcy about three years ago.
In a separate suit, Carlinsky represented American International Group Inc. (AIG) in claims filed in February that two former top executives stole trade secrets. He also represents ING Bank in a $500 million fraud suit against now-defunct National Century Financial Enterprises and several hedge funds with billions of dollars in credit-linked notes allegedly lost in the fallout of Enron bankruptcy.
Marc Bernstein, associate general counsel of AIG in New York, said Quinn Emanuel is one of the few New York firms with just litigation lawyers -- and who are skilled enough to take a case to trial. "At the end of the day, this thing might have to be tried," he said. "I want someone who is comfortable. That's a value that they have that not every firm has."