In a statement announcing the move Wednesday, Quinn Emanuel co-founding partner John Quinn said the firm had courted Schwartz for more than a decade. Schwartz joined Irell & Manella in 2015 from O’Melveny & Myers, where he had spent his entire legal career and once chaired that firm’s high-powered entertainment and media litigation practice.
“Although I was based in Los Angeles, the geographic scope of my practice is all over the country,” Schwartz said. “I became concerned over the last three years, the platform [at Irell & Manella] was limiting the cases I was able to get … so I wanted to address that and how better than to go to Quinn [Emanuel]?”
At Quinn Emanuel, Schwartz will be become part of a litigation powerhouse that has offices around the world, a start contrast from the 106-lawyer Irell & Manella, which has offices in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, California. And besides Quinn Emanuel’s global platform, the 770-lawyer firm also boasts the second-highest profits per equity partner in the Am Law 100 at $4.74 million, according to the most recent financial data obtained by The American Lawyer.
During his 31-year career, Schwartz has gained a reputation as a “nationally recognized” litigator for high-stakes disputes, particularly in the entertainment and media industries, Quinn Emanuel said a statement announcing his hire. Schwartz has represented corporate clients such as broadcast networks, film studios, record companies and video developers, as well as individual actors, directors, producers and writers.
While at Irell & Manella, Schwartz won a summary judgment for CBS Corp. in a closely watched class action case filed against the media giant by ABS Entertainment Inc. The litigation, which saw Schwartz work with a team of Irell & Manella litigators, involved the radio broadcast of pre-1972 sound recordings. More recently, Schwartz has made headlines for advising Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman in a series of sexual harassment allegations against him reported by CNN.
Schwartz has defended more than 75 class actions, including score a key victory for video streaming service Hulu LLC in 2015. He said he has been seeing more putative class actions filed against media and entertainment clients in recent years. As the industry has become more consolidated, Schwartz noted that there have been fewer disputes among major companies in the space, although when one does arise, it is often “much more titanic.”
“The more these industries changes, the more complicated things get and the wider the ramifications are for every [piece of] business they do. They ultimately generate disputes,” Schwartz said.
Quinn Emanuel’s John Quinn, who has long served as outside general counsel to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said in a statement that the “insurmountable conflicts” that had long barred Schwartz from joining the firm had finally been resolved.
“I am happy they no longer exist,“ said Quinn, without disclosing what those conflicts were. “We are looking forward to having Bobby on our side.”
Quinn Emanuel currently has about 145 lawyers in Los Angeles, where the firm was founded by Quinn and several other partners in 1986. Earlier this year, Quinn Emanuel opened an office in Boston after hiring longtime Ropes & Gray partner Harvey Wolkoff, a move that came shortly after it brought on former Boies Schiller & Flexner art industry litigator Luke Nikas in New York.
Despite those additions, Quinn Emanuel has also watched some heavy-hitters head for the door. The firm saw a sizable group of lawyers leave its New York office this summer when Dechert recruited a product liability team led by former practice co-chairs Sheila Birnbaum and Mark Cheffo. Quinn Emanuel has also been involved in a dispute with top litigators Philippe Selendy and Faith Gay, both of whom left the firm in January to form Selendy & Gay.
As for Irell & Manella, whose hire of Schwartz and former O’Melveny & Myers litigation partner Victor Jih in 2015 was a departure from the firm’s traditional attitude toward lateral hiring, it is currently under new leadership, having chosen Ellisen Turner a year ago to take over as managing partner. Turner succeeded Andrei Iancu, who left Irell & Manella in February after being chosen to head the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.