Boies Schiller Flexner has made a major hire in Los Angeles, luring prominent litigator and law professor Susan Estrich away from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, where she has spent the past decade.
The move lands Estrich as a partner at Boies Schiller, where she’s further bulking up the firm’s presence in California, which has grown in recent years. The hire is also a reunion of sorts—Estrich and Boies Schiller chairman David Boies both worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee in the late 1970s.
“I’ve known Susan for a long time,” Boies said on Wednesday. “I’ve always wanted to have her join Boies Schiller once we got established.”
Boies also noted the impact of Estrich’s presence in California, where Boies Schiller has historically had a lower profile than in the eastern United States.
“California is a very important legal market, but it is a market where we have not had as complete a presence as we have on the East Coast,” said Boies. “Susan will be an important addition to that practice.”
Estrich said on Wednesday that she felt a sense of “coming home” when she was deciding to make the move—among other factors, she noted a recent meeting with Boies in which the two talked about legal practice and it reminded her how closely the two are aligned in terms of their approach and philosophy. She also said she’s consistently looked for new challenges in her career, and sees this as a great one to take on now.
“Timing, I guess, is everything,” Estrich said of the move to Boies Schiller. “I think I have one more good chapter left before I take to my lounge chair.”
Recently, Estrich has been in the news for representing former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes in connection with sexual harassment allegations against the now-deceased executive. That work drew attention in part because as a young lawyer, Estrich published a book in 1987 called “Real Rape,” in which she advocated for reform of the U.S. laws surrounding sexual assault and also recounted her own rape.
Estrich also represented former Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit amidst allegations of sexual misconduct that led him to step down from the bench.
Estrich said she expects to officially join Boies Schiller within the next week or two. She also noted that, after giving notice to Quinn Emanuel about her departure, she has spent the past month or so during her “garden” period working on a new book, “Survivor,” which will also focus on sexual assault issues. Estrich said she plans to make advising companies on gender diversity and harassment issues a key part of her legal practice at Boies Schiller.
“This has been my area of scholarship and some of the work I’ve been most proud of,” said Estrich.
In addition to her time in government and in private practice at Quinn Emanuel, Estrich comes to Boies Schiller after a lengthy career that’s also been marked by stints in academia and Democratic politics. In the academic realm, she’s been a longtime professor at the University of Southern California Law School, teaching classes on gender discrimination, election law and other topics. While in law school, she became the first female president of the Harvard Law Review.
Estrich’s past political roles include acting as senior policy adviser to the unsuccessful Mondale-Ferraro 1984 presidential campaign and as national campaign manager for Michael Dukakis’s unsuccessful presidential run in 1988. She also worked on former U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy’s unsuccessful presidential campaign ahead of the 1980 election.
Estrich has also served as a legal and political analyst for Fox News and has been a frequent op-ed writer. Recently, she wrote a piece commenting on the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who accused now U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when the two were teenagers.
For Quinn Emanuel, losing Estrich comes in the wake of several partner departures throughout the course of this year, starting with a 10-partner group that split off early in 2018 to form the new firm Selendy & Gay. In May, Quinn Emanuel pre-emptively announced another departure of a prominent group—products liability co-chairs Sheila Birnbaum, who has been dubbed the “queen of toxic torts,” Mark Cheffo and a third partner. That group, which left for Dechert, was later joined by another 18 former Quinn Emanuel lawyers in July.
In a statement, Quinn Emanuel founder John Quinn wished Estrich well and said his firm still has a strong roster of lawyers.
“We thank her for the great work she did for our clients and our firm while she was with us and wish her all the best. The departures (and the new arrivals) are unrelated; our lawyer head count now is higher than it has ever been,” said Quinn.
While Quinn Emanuel has lost a number of partners in 2018, it has also made notable hires throughout the year. In May, the firm announced the addition in Boston of former Acting U.S. Attorney William Weinreb, who previously served as lead prosecutor in the Boston Marathon Bombing investigation. Earlier in October, the firm added entertainment litigation heavyweight Bobby Schwartz in Los Angeles, who Quinn Emanuel hired from Irell & Manella.