Frank Rusty Conner III
Frank Rusty Conner III (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi / NLJ)

The managing partner of DLA Piper’s Washington office, Frank “Rusty” Conner III, has jumped ship to Covington & Burling along with financial institutions mergers and acquisitions specialist Michael Reed.

The two partners left DLA on Jan. 31 and start work at Covington on Feb. 3, where they’ll focus on transactional matters for banks and other financial-institution clients.

Covington has “one of the pre-eminent financial services regulatory practices in the country,” Conner said in an interview. We do the other side, the transaction piece. Increasingly in what we do, it’s absolutely critical to have that branded regulatory capability.”

Together, the two have worked on more than 500 transactions with an aggregate deal value in excess of $150 billion, and have handled more than 300 capital-markets transactions.

At Covington, they’ll work with financial-institutions practice chairman John Dugan, who was U.S. comptroller of the currency from 2005 to 2010, and partner Edward Yingling, the former president and CEO of the American Bankers Association.

Conner said the move to Covington was “nothing negative as it relates to DLA Piper,” which he called “an extraordinary organization.” Instead, he said it was “a unique opportunity” for him and Reed to grow their practice.

It’s not the first time Conner has a left a management role at a firm—he was the managing partner of Alston & Bird’s Washington office when he and Reed moved to DLA in 2007. He was also chairman of Alston’s executive committee.

Will Conner assume a management role at Covington? “I hope not,” he said, laughing.

DLA, the biggest firm in the world by headcount, has about 4,000 lawyers—compared to about 800 at Covington. But Conner said Covington’s smaller size is “no disadvantage. … It all depends on the practice.”

Reed, who is Canadian, said he was drawn to Covington’s team-oriented culture. “Everyone I’ve met here is all about client service and teamwork,” he said. The chance to move to Covington was “an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

As of Friday afternoon, he and Reed said they had not yet spoken to their clients about the move. Neither lawyer anticipated client conflicts.

“Rusty and Michael are a dynamic addition to our corporate practice and a tremendous asset to the firm’s financial institution clients given their deep transactional experience in this heavily regulated industry,” Dugan of Covington said in a prepared statement. “Post-financial crisis, the combination of deal and regulatory expertise is especially critical.”

Contact Jenna Greene at jgreene@alm.com.