Morgan, Lewis & Bockius is preparing now for the elevation this October of litigation department head Jami Wintz McKeon to serve as chairwoman of the firm.
McKeon handed over her leadership responsibilities of the firmwide litigation practice to Philadelphia office managing partner J. Gordon Cooney Jr. in March and, in turn, Cooney is handing over his office leadership responsibilities to investment management and securities industry partner Timothy W. Levin. Levin was set to officially take over those duties Sunday.
Levin first worked as a document clerk in the litigation department of Morgan Lewis when he was still an undergraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. It was then that he first got the chance to work with Cooney and McKeon. After law school at Villanova University and a clerkship with former Pennsylvania Superior Court President Judge Stephen J. McEwen Jr. from 1995 to 1996, Levin joined Morgan Lewis.
Since that time, he has focused his practice on advising asset managers and other financial services firms in connection with design, development and management of pooled investment vehicles and investment advisory programs.
Aside from his roles on the office relations committee and for the past 10 years on the firm’s recruiting committee, Levin has also served as head of the Philadelphia investment management practice. It was through that role that he was invited to Cooney’s monthly meetings of the Philadelphia office’s practice leadership.
Levin said that was a great way for the office’s partners to ensure they were all on the same page in terms of the firm’s focus on the region.
“The firm has its roots in Philadelphia and its origins in Philadelphia and we’ve obviously spent a lot of time and energy and thought expanding the firm nationally and globally, and we really do have a global reach and a global client base,” Cooney said. “It has been, and it was for me, very important that those of us who practice and live out of the Philadelphia office remain committed to the Philadelphia business community and the Philadelphia civic community.”
Cooney said Levin is equally committed to the local market, where Morgan Lewis has about 300 attorneys.
Cooney, Levin and McKeon all plan to continue practicing in addition to their leadership responsibilities.
For Cooney’s part, he said he has enjoyed focusing his practice lately on representing clients facing litigation on multiple fronts, such as clients facing both class actions and government investigations. His practice includes a variety of commercial and civil litigation, with particular emphasis on the defense of class actions in state and federal courts, including consumer, products liability, deceptive trade practice, toxic tort, Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, antitrust and securities class actions.
Cooney has a strong pro bono commitment as well.
Cooney, along with partner Michael Banks, has led a 25-year pro bono battle on behalf of John Thompson, who was wrongly convicted in 1985 of both the murder of a New Orleans hotel executive and an unrelated armed carjacking that was used by the prosecutors in the murder case. Cooney and Banks were able to get retrial and get Thompson completely exonerated and released from custody after 18 years. They have also fought to get Thompson financial remuneration for his years in jail.
“I have been maintaining a full-time practice and will continue to do that in my capacity as leader of litigation,” Cooney said.
”I enjoy the practice of law. I enjoy working with my clients. And I think it’s important for our [leadership] to be out there on the front line and know what our clients are thinking and what our partners and associates are experiencing.”
Cooney said the litigation group’s international expansion has resulted in an uptick in international arbitration for the firm. The team also continues to see a rise in intellectual property litigation, government enforcement actions and cyberprivacy and data breach matters. And while the U.S. Supreme Court has raised the bar for class action filings, Cooney said there is more activity now than ever prior to the class certification stage.
Cooney led the Philadelphia office for the past seven years. He said his and the firm’s goal through that time was to manage the recent economic downturn consistent with the firm’s culture.
Levin said he received a number of messages from his fellow partners congratulating him on taking over for Cooney, as well as letting Levin know that he has big shoes to fill.
“I certainly am not the type to step in and start fixing what ain’t broke,” Levin said. “I don’t have any big plans for changing things. In terms of growing our practice here in Philadelphia, I look at what we have and I think it’s a pretty unique situation in the city.”
Levin said Morgan Lewis has business and civic ties to the city, but can bring a global approach to representing clients in the region. He said the firm is always looking to expand when expansion makes sense and said he would take that approach to growth in the Philadelphia office.
“It is very important for us to not only have the global presence out of Philadelphia, but for us to fit in closely to the business community in our region and the civic and philanthropic community,” Cooney said. “That has been something that our leadership in Philadelphia has long valued.”
Morgan Lewis now has 25 offices and nearly 1,400 lawyers.