Tom Duley

Veteran life sciences lawyer Thomas Duley has left King & Spalding to join Sidley Austin’s San Francisco office.

Duley started Monday as a partner in Sidley’s global life sciences practice, having spent the previous four-and-a-half years at King & Spalding, a firm he joined from DLA Piper in 2014. Duley focuses his practice on complex technology agreements and commercial transactions for life sciences companies.

“I joined Sidley because I was attracted to a platform that is domestic and global in nature,” said Duley, adding that his new firm’s capital markets and M&A expertise will help his life sciences and biotechnology clients. “I think the firm’s deep bench of tech transactional lawyers, in particular, will be beneficial to support the clients that I work with.”

Moreover, as China becomes an increasingly important market for biotechnology companies, Duley said that Sidley’s emphasis on the country—the firm also has six offices in Asia—were an added attraction in joining the Am Law 100 firm.

“Looking forward, what we are seeing is an increasing shift toward China,” Duley said. “One of the reasons for that is a recent change in the role of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that now allows pre-revenue biotech companies to go public on that exchange.”

That new regime, Duley said, has created “a new frontier” for U.S. biotechnology companies.

Prior to joining King & Spalding in 2014, Duley spent a little more than four years as of counsel at DLA Piper, where he was one of a few lawyers from the global legal giant that sought to bring their Big Law experiences into law school classrooms. Before that Duley was of counsel at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in San Francisco. Earlier in his legal career, Duley was an in-house corporate counsel at biotechnology company PDL BioPharma Inc.

Over the years, Duley has forged a reputation as a go-to lawyer in the life sciences sector, particularly for biotech and pharmaceutical companies. One of Duley’s longtime clients is SciClone Pharmaceuticals Inc., which he advised on a licensing deal with Soligenix Inc. to develop, promote and market an oral mucositis treatment in patients with head and neck cancer in China, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. (SciClone, advised by DLA Piper, was sold a year ago this month for $605 million to a consortium led by GL Capital Management Ltd.)

“I am inspired by the desire of the biotechnology community to treat and hopefully cure diseases, I find that inspirational,” Duley said about his practice. “Although I am not a scientist, I consider it genuinely a privilege to be able to contribute my skill set to help them in some small way, to help the biotechnology community enhance their mission in curing diseases.”

Before going to law school, Duley studied and practiced as an architect, having once worked for Frank Gehry’s noted architectural firm in Los Angeles. Duley said the “problem-solving” part of his background has helped him to think more creatively as a lawyer.

“Tom’s addition is confirmation of Sidley’s ongoing commitment to delivering the full spectrum of services to clients in the life sciences space,” said a statement announcing Duley’s hire from Sharon Flanagan, a Sidley partner and member of the firm’s executive committee. “Tom’s arrival strengthens the Northern California, Asia and European teams working in this dynamic area, and his experience as a strategist and legal adviser to companies throughout the corporate life cycle significantly expands both our regional and global life sciences capabilities.”

Sidley has had a San Francisco office since it merged with Brown & Wood in 2001. The firm later opened an office in Palo Alto, California, in 2009 after relocating eight lawyers from its San Francisco office and hiring 12 more from Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin. Sidley said it now has about 100 lawyers in Palo Alto and San Francisco.

This summer, Sidley’s San Francisco office hired Goodwin Procter private equity partner Jared Jensen. David Anderson, a litigator at Sidley in San Francisco tapped to become the next top federal prosecutor in the Northern District of California, helped secure a $3.43 million payday for the firm late last year for his work representing a former federal prosecutor.

Meanwhile, Moshe Kupietzky, who previously led Sidley’s corporate and finance practice in Los Angeles, retired from Sidley in August and joined Reed Smith as senior counsel. Last week Sidley also added a pair of high-profile private equity partners from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in New York.