A litigation boutique founded last year by former K&L Gates and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan partner John Pierce has a new name, a new office and several new faces.
Founded in January 2017 by Pierce and his ex-Quinn Emanuel colleague David Sergenian, Pierce Sergenian—now known as Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht—has set up shop in New York after adding former Jones Day and Quinn Emanuel associate Maxim Price and ex-Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison associate and current on-air legal analyst Caroline Polisi.
The Los Angeles-based boutique has also brought on Beverly Hills-based solo practitioner James Bainbridge for its California operation.
“From the time we launched, our goal [and] our vision has always been to basically create the Quinn Emanuel for the digital age,” said Pierce, who joined the firm in 2006 from Pittsburgh-based Cohen & Grigsby.
After nearly eight years at Quinn Emanuel, Pierce jumped to Latham & Watkins in 2014, spending nearly two years at the firm before moving to K&L Gates in early 2016 to serve as co-head of the firm’s litigation group. Pierce abruptly left K&L Gates after less than four months at the firm, but re-emerged as managing partner and co-founder of Pierce Sergenian, a boutique seeking to make a name for itself on several high-stakes contingency matters, including a battle against Snapchat parent Snap Inc.
Pierce Sergenian also made several notable additions, including former Kirkland & Ellis litigation partner Darin Beffa and ex-Quinn Emanuel of counsel Joseph Ashby. Only a few months after opening up shop, the firm struck a deal with Scottsdale, Arizona-based litigation financier Pravati Capital to become perhaps the first public example of a litigation funder investing in a firm’s current and future contingency fee cases that it has against large companies like Snap.
But as the litigation boutique grew it became apparent that some lawyers at the firm didn’t quite share the same vision of rapid growth in terms of head count and geographic expansion, said Pierce, noting that “being very aggressive in taking big contingency cases using litigation funding in a pioneering way, which we’re doing.”
So in mid-November, Sergenian and Ashby left Pierce Sergenian to form Sergenian Ashby as their former firm changed its name to Pierce Burns following its addition of former Quinn Emanuel associate Julian Burns King. But the latter, who had also spent time as an associate at Paul Weiss and Los Angeles-based Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks, Lincenberg & Rhow, left Pierce Burns in February. Neither Burns nor Sergenian immediately returned requests for comment about their split with Pierce.
Pierce said that he and Burns are still working together to take to trial an upcoming matter. Despite its departures, the latest iteration of his new firm, Pierce Bainbridge, expects to continue to expand, Pierce said in touting its recent additions of Bainbridge, Polisi and Price. In the coming months, he hopes to add offices in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
“We’re looking for Navy Seal, Army Ranger types—really aggressive litigators who want to be on a great platform and be a part of the team and litigate great cases,” said Pierce, himself a former tank platoon leader in the First Cavalry Division of the U.S. Army.
Polisi is joining Pierce Bainbridge as of counsel in New York, while Price is coming aboard as a partner in the city. Price, who previously worked alongside Pierce in representing Samsung Electronics Co. in its high-profile intellectual property war with Apple Inc., joined what is now Pierce Bainbridge in February from his own startup, Unifi Biotechnologies.
Price said that the structure of Pierce Bainbridge offers clients a new kind of access to justice that isn’t available in traditional litigation funding and treats cases much like that of a startup, which have a lot of potential value.
“[But if a startup] doesn’t find the funding it needs, it sort of gets lost in this valley of death where it can’t really move forward,” Price said.
With Pierce Bainbridge’s new approach to litigation funding, the firm can take on a number of cases that are a little more risky than traditional litigation would be able to handle, Price said. In order to do this, the firm needs to used streamlined technology akin to what one would find in Silicon Valley.
“I see in [Pierce] the same qualities that are sort of innate to a startup founder,” Price said. “I really value those qualities in a person, so I think he can move this frontier forward for this new firm.”