Two months after Sheila Birnbaum and Mark Cheffo, former co-chairs of the products liability practice at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, left to join Dechert in New York with one other partner, the other shoe has dropped.
Dechert announced Friday that it had added an 18-attorney products liability team from Quinn Emanuel, composed of three partners, nine counsel and six associates. Dechert is also picking up three project attorneys and five paralegals.
Including the initial three acquisitions, the group represents a more than 7 percent increase to the size of Dechert’s global litigation practice.
Matthew Larrabee, who chairs that practice, said that the move allows the firm to add mass torts to a list of specialties that also includes international arbitration, securities, white collar and antitrust.
“We want to make sure that we are repping the world’s most successful companies with their highest stakes problems,” he said. “The only way that you can build a practice like that is really to be able to deliver value that’s very hard to find in other law firms. We’re very specialized. We’re not a large collection of generalists.”
Larrabee added that the Quinn Emanuel group that just joined has a global focus that complements the firm’s existing international strengths. For example, Dechert represents Dow Chemical Co. in the United States while a French partner of the firm handles the company’s Agent Orange issues, another multinational matter. Other key existing clients include AbbVie Inc. and Pfizer Inc.
“Their clients are overwhelmingly multinational or global companies—major pharmaceutical companies and other businesses that have gotten involved in MDLs and mass torts,” he said. “Putting these practices together, it will attract additional talent.”
The newest acquisitions are led by partners Hayden Coleman, Douglas Dunham and Bert Wolff. All three served as of counsel at Quinn Emanuel. All three have substantial appellate practices, and Dunham has gone before the U.S. Supreme Court in connection with 27 matters. Coleman focuses on representing pharmaceutical, consumer goods and insurance companies, while Wolff brings toxic tort expertise from spending two decades as national counsel for American Sterilizer Co. and Steris Corp. in their ethylene oxide products liability litigation.
“We are thrilled to have this marquee team join Dechert’s group of experienced product liability and mass tort litigators. A prestige lateral acquisition of this magnitude cements our firm’s position among the best in the market,” Dechert chairman Andrew Levander said in a statement.
Quinn Emanuel pre-emptively announced the initial departures of Birnbaum, Cheffo and Douglas Fleming in May, citing conflicts with other parts of the firm’s litigation practice.
The three all joined Quinn Emanuel’s New York office in 2013 from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, along with 11 other products liability attorneys.
Birnbaum, who has been dubbed the “queen of toxic torts” for her influence on the practice, had spent 33 years at Skadden, where she played a groundbreaking role in products liability cases involving oral contraceptives, breast implants and other litigation.
“Dechert provides a tremendous global platform for our practice and I have the utmost respect for the team this firm has built,” Birnbaum said in a statement.
Following the initial wave of departures, Quinn Emanuel’s New York office managing partner, Rick Werder, said that Morgan Tovey in the San Francisco office and Sandra Bresnick in New York would now serve as co-heads of the products liability practice. Werder did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
Quinn Emanuel earlier this year lost a total of 10 litigation partners to breakaway firm Selendy & Gay.
In the last 18 months, Dechert has hired 12 other litigation partners across the firm’s New York, Washington, D.C., London, Los Angeles, Paris and Brussels offices. These include Hughes Hubbard & Reed international trade partners F. Amanda DeBusk and Melissa Duffy in Washington, former U.S. federal prosecutor Roger Burlingame in London, New York white-collar lawyers Benjamin Rosenberg and David Kelley, and London litigator Dorothy Cory-Wright.